Satirical verse: The globe-trotting Brexiteer

Readers from countries other than Great Britain may wish to note that this satirical verse is about the current British Foreign Secretary, who is an ardent Brexiteer (a person who is in favour of the United Kingdom withdrawing from the European Union).

 

I am a one-nation Tory

Who cares not a jot for glory,

Am your quintessential Brit

Appreciated for my wit

And a slightly raffish look;

I know how to write a book

And draw lots of nice red lines,

Am a connoisseur of wines,

And I never, ever never tire

When suspended from zip wire.

When our greatness is at stake,

I will (always) have my cake

And will eat it – hence my girth

(Please contain unseemly mirth);

Round the world I widely roam

(Though, sometimes, without a comb),

And I think you ought to ditch

Your displeasure with the rich;

In a nutshell, that is that;

Let me tell you where we’re at.

(I mean our negotiation

Re the freedom of our nation.)

I’d had not a drop of Marnier*,

When I told this old chap Barnier

He could go and jolly whistle;

Fair enough: he didn’t bristle

But came out with poppycock

About loudly ticking clock;

We are not, so as you know,

Giving Barnier any dough;

Of this there can be no doubt:

After all, we’re getting out,

So you can now go and chill;

What? We’re paying 20 bill.???

Nah, not on your blinking nelly!

(I’ll repeat this on the telly),

Not if I can … wait a sec,

PM’s waving a fat cheque …

It says 40 – but that’s double!!!

Grrrr, we really are in trouble:

That’s the dosh, I acquiesce,

Promised to the NHS;

Payout wasn’t in our plan –

Things are going down the pan;

But fear not (I’m being frank):

With a tiger in my tank,

I will cut us such a deal

That you’ll think it is a steal;

I’ll outshine the other stars

And put Elvis – yep – on Mars**!

 

*Grand

**An expression Boris Johnson used to describe the likelihood of his becoming Prime Minister

 

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Satirical verse: Supplication of a Pole in Brexit Britain

I have now started writing political satire (in verse) inspired by Brexit. To those reading this outside Britain, this country has voted (albeit narrowly) in favour of leaving the European Union. This has provoked much controversy and created deep divisions between the supporters and opponents of Britain’s membership of the Union. I believe that one of the reasons behind the vote to leave was the desire to curb immigration. Since I hail from Poland, and am thus one of those immigrants whom many (though, of course, not all) Brits seem to dislike, I am getting my own back by satirising Brexit in verse. Enjoy!

 

With this country set for Brexit,

Please don’t show me to the exit

‘Cos, some misdeeds* notwithstanding,

I could pass for quite upstanding

(Although not when in repose

After vodka overdose,

But I know that it is sinful

Having what they call a skinful):

I will not condone a fiddle

And sit roughly in the middle

On the scale from saints to sinners;

I eat carrots with my dinners,

Take crushed garlic, go for walkies,

Have foresworn soft-centre choccies,

And I’m also (fancy this!)

Upping my Omega 3s**.

I did pay my taxes – once***

And have grabbed at every chance

To perform a kindly deed

When I spied a soul in need;

Have you ever even tried

To become a helpful guide

To a dear old lady who

Looked confused and lost to you?

I’d be in there like a shot,

Never mind how hard she fought …

But there are (I’m shy, don’t clap)

More fine feathers in my cap:

I have never been a chancer,

Smuggler, banker, spy, pole dancer

(Although I’m a dancing Pole),

I have tended to my soul

And renounced the deadly sins****,

And I’ve used recycle bins,

Plus, I never did striptease …

Can I stay then? Pretty please!

 

* We shall not dwell on those, though

**The lovely natives routinely place the apostrophe before the ‘s’, where it’s redundant because ‘3s’ is a regular plural; we may be aliens, but we have studied English grammar – in depth

***Or twice

****Well, at least three of them

 

Comic verse: Sales and philosophy

As notorious as our gales

Are the January sales,

Where you always – yes you do –

Find a bargain, if not two.

When an urge within you surge,

Your account you swiftly purge

(It’s now down to but a dime)

And have jolly, jolly time

Buying all that lovely stuff

Until husband says, “Enough!”

Then you wait, all tense and pale,

Till the February sale,

When you go, with joy and glee,

On another spending spree.

It’s now March – the sale is on,

Blimey, how the time has gone.

Then it’s April, May and June;

All those sales – oh, what a boon!

(Don’t you love the current trend

With the sales that never end?)

When your hubby grabs your purse,

You protest: “It could be worse:

If you think about it, honey,

I am saving lots of money!”

At which point, you hear a groan

And see hubby lying prone;

This prevents a likely scrape,

And you make your bold escape

With a ponder that goes thus:

Why can’t men be more like us?

Here’s to a stress-free Christmas!

It’s been a while, but I’m sure you’ve been so busy you’ve barely noticed. Anyway, I’m back but will be changing course: I’m working on a book of humorous verses, some of which will be posted here from time to time. This one, which comes with warm season’s greetings, is about my stress-free Christmas – hope yours is too.

 

She’s a secret that is murky:

She has never stuffed a turkey;

Christmas pudding and mince pies?

That’s the stuff she simply buys.

She looks forward with great glee

To a Christmas that’s stress-free,

Which, of this there is no doubt,

Means, quite frankly, eating out;

This is why she is so merry

(Though her hubby blames the sherry),

Knowing they will have a ball;

Merry Christmas, one and all!

 

96: President Trump’s contribution to the Grammar Day: to tapp or not to tapp?

Just in time for today’s Grammar Day, Donald Trump fired off the following tweet:

How low has President Obama gone to tapp [sic] my phone during the very sacred election process.

In order to help President Trump out a wee bit, I’ve decided to post the relevant extract from my recently published Grammar and Punctuation for Key Stages 3 & 4 with Handy Usage Notes. The extract deals with the doubling of consonants at the end of verbs (such as ‘tap’). But the President also used the wrong tense and, if his pronouncement was meant to be a question, failed to deploy the question mark, of which more further on.

6.10                  Spelling verb inflections

6.10.1 The doubling of consonants

Before endings -ing and -ed are added to base forms ending with a single consonant letter (except x), those bases double the consonant letter if the preceding vowel is stressed and spelt with a single letter. This is exemplified below.

  • Bar ends with a single r preceded by a stressed a spelt with a single letter. Thus, bar – barring – barred. Similarly, permit ends with a single t preceded by a stressed iI spelt with a single letter. Thus, permit – permitting – permitted.

By contrast, when the vowel is either unstressed or written with two letters, there is no doubling of the final consonant.

  • Enter also ends with a single r preceded by e spelt with a single letter, but this vowel e is unstressed. This is why the doubling of the final r does not occur: enter – entering – entered. Similarly, although moan ends with a single n preceded by a stressed sound oa, this sound is represented not by one but by two letters: oa (sequences of two vowel letters representing a single sound, such as oa, ai or ea, are called diphthongs). Again then, the doubling of the final n does not occur: moan – moaning – moaned.

Exceptions to the consonant-doubling rule

The rule is broken with bases ending in g and c: those consonants are doubled despite being preceded by single unstressed vowels: zigzag – zigzagging – zigzagged; traffic – trafficking – trafficked.

Unlike American English, British English also breaks the rule in bases ending in l, m and, in a few verbs, p coming after single unstressed vowels: signal – signalling – signalled;  trial – trialling – trialled;  travel – travelling – travelled;  telegram – telegramming – telegrammed; worship – worshipping – worshipped. However, most verbs ending in p have regular spellings: develop – developing – developed; gossip – gossiping – gossiped.

END OF EXTRACT FROM MY TEXTBOOK

As for the wrong tense, the Present Perfect (here, has gone) may not be used to refer to events which took place at a defined time in the past (such as last year’s American presidential election), this being the job of the past tense – the Simple Past, in this case. And while the structure of this part of the presidential tweet is typical of a question, no question mark is used. It is possible, however, that this pronouncement was meant to be exclamatory, but the writer’s command of English tripped him up. If a question was indeed intended, what President Trump should have written is this (stylistic and content-related considerations aside):

How low did President Obama go to tap my phone during the very sacred election process?

95: Venimently perplexed

Some of you might have heard about a recent by-election in my parliamentary constituency, Copeland. Propelled by the sense of civic responsibility, I duly attended a local hustings, at which our independent candidate revealed his impeccable Europhobic credentials with the rhetorical question “A million Poles enough for you?” No sooner had I regained composure than I was assaulted with his campaign leaflet, in which the wannabe MP regaled us with the following pronouncement:

The Green Party are being venimently [sic] against nuclear energy.

Are they really? In an obvious attempt to be even-handed, the leaflet proceeded to castigate other political parties:

The farming community has been hit by this present governments [sic] stopping of subsidies.

Predictably, the Labour Party, currently presided over by Jeremy Corbyn, did not escape unscathed either.

The same can be said of Labour supporters who vote for Jeremy Corbyns [sic] Labour Party.

In an attempt to hit us hard with his anti-global-warming message, the campaigner chided us thus:

How many times does Keswick have to flood before the resident’s [sic] get the message. [sic]

The environmental theme needed to be reinforced, so the leaflet contained the following imploration:

We all need to change our behaviour now to slow down global warming to ensure our ancestors [sic] have a planet to inhabit.

But of course! It also appeared as if our independent candidate felt that a wee threat could go a long way.

To the people who disagree with me, I have bad news for you, but you will dislike global warming and increased sea levels even less [sic]!

Will we really? And the campaigner had other gripes:

Recent cost cutting decisions such as the demolition of the public toilets in Whitehaven is [sic] disgraceful.

But, hearteningly, the leaflet wasn’t all negative:

Land based wind turbines can produce energy much cheaper and more accessible [sic] than their off-shore counterparts.

The publication finished on an uncharacteristically literate, if a tad contradictory, note:

We have the 27th best education system in the world and every year it seems to get worse. The state education system has failed to produce results, so a drastic rethink is required to improve results.

It was rather hard to resist the conclusion that the leaflet had been produced by the very embodiment of this failure.

 

94: The Demise of a Publisher – and the Rise of a Phoenix

Grammar and punctuation book cover 2.jpg

It was ten months ago that I proudly announced the impending publication of my linguistic opus, Grammar and Punctuation for Key Stages 3 & 4 with Handy Usage Notes, by First and Best in Education. Well, maybe not quite an opus: I had, in fact, lopped nearly a third off an earlier incarnation of the textbook, which was targeted mainly at the British Key Stage 3 (ages 11-14). But, while the book had been shortened and, I hope, improved, its scope had been widened to include also older students. So all that was left for me to do was to sit back and wait for the royalties to start rolling in. Alas, a few months later I found myself a bewildered recipient of a notification of the demise of my book’s publishing house. How come: they had been going for years! Sadly, it appeared as if they were now going straight into administration.

But what is it they say about doors closing: when one door closes, another slams in your face? No, perhaps not that one, for I definitely wasn’t going to let this setback deflate me. After all, I am now a fully-fledged publisher myself. So my phoenix-like textbook is again in the public domain, as a shiny A4 paperback, elegantly bound, as well as an e-book, both available worldwide. And the best thing is that, with no middlemen to take their cut, I was able to slash the book’s price considerably. The book can be accessed via the links below, via the books page on my website or by Googling its title and author (i.e. me).

Paperback

http://www.lulu.com/shop/anna-nolan/grammar-and-punctuation-for-key-stages-3-4/paperback/product-22988266.html

 E-book

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01N1QVWHD

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N1QVWHD

 For those interested, here’s a brief description of my textbook. The book gives an introduction to the grammar and punctuation of present-day Standard English in the context of their relevance to communication. Its up-to-date grammatical and punctuation content, rooted in British national literacy strategies, is particularly relevant to Key Stages 3 and 4 (ages 11-16), but the book can be used also for, and by, older students. Its unique selling points include concise notes addressing a range of relevant usage points, a spotlight on the areas which writers tend to find troublesome and authentic examples helping to bring the content to life. While focusing on British English, the book does point out some differences with American English – particularly in the area of grammar. Its main aims are to improve students’ communication skills (particularly written), to constitute an accessible reference source and to serve as an editing handbook.

I hope the book will serve its users well.

 

 

93 – Mini-rant: Dead survivors?

Having been greatly distracted by two momentous events, Brexit and the American election, I’ve been very remiss with this blog. And, let’s face it, language misdemeanours, however diverting, pale into insignificance with what’s going on in the world. But having stumbled across this snippet, widely broadcast by the British media, I’m unable to resist a mini-rant. The revelation came courtesy of an eminent foreign correspondent, who commented on a catastrophic plane crash thus.

There is little hope of finding survivors alive.

Although overcome with an overwhelming sadness, I nevertheless wondered whether there might be some dead survivors – an obvious (to me, at least) interpretation of this tautological statement. As I’ve mentioned in other posts, tautology – saying the same thing twice in different words – is a stylistic fault which is quite common, but the venerable BBC and its reporters might be expected to be above such lapses. What the correspondent should have said is, of course, this.

 There is little hope of finding anybody alive.

Or this.

 There is little hope of finding any survivors.

92 – Frolic: The Trump revelation

“Holy moly!”

“Hmmm?” “How on earth did he manage to keep that quiet?”

“Who?”

“Trump.”

“Donald?”

“The very same.”

“Keep what quiet?”

“That he had transitioned.”

“No, he hasn’t – not yet.”

“But he must have.”

“And how exactly do you work this one out?”

“Well, that’s what it says here – in this week’s Sunday Times.”

“Don’t go believing everything you read in the press. Even if it’s The Sunday Times: the stuff they ha …”

“But he is a man!”

“Of course he is a man.”

“So he must have transitioned!”

“Look, he is only a Republican nominee for now: the presidential election isn’t until November, so …”

“No, no, no!”

“Yes, yes, yes: Americans will be electing their president on November 8th; it’s a Tuesday, I believe.”

“No, no, not that!”

“So what?”

“I had no idea he was born a girl, no idea at all – fancy that!”

“A girl? Of course he wasn’t born a girl; don’t be silly!”

“But that’s what Ivanka Trump said – his daughter.”

“What?”

As a young girl growing up, my father told me I could do anything that I set my mind to.

“Oh this! It’s just her grammar.”

“What do you mean?”

“Look, it’s a very common error.”

“It is?”

“Yep; I call this ‘marketing as’.”

Marketing as?”

“Yep, they are always coming up with stuff like: ‘As one of our best customers, we are pleased to offer you this exclusive deal’; I keep getting marketing literature strewn with such nonsense – so does everybody else.”

“O-o-o, so it was her.”

“Of course it was her; look; what she should have said is this.”

 

As a young girl growing up, I was told by my father I could do anything that I set my mind to.

 

“M-m-m, she would … I mean he would have been too young to father a child anyway.”

“Look, it’s just a misrelated phrase – just like a dangling participle.”

“A dangling participle – what’s that?”

“Another time.”

 

 

Mini-rant 91: Freedoms and opposites

Isn’t freedom of speech an absolute marvel? We in the United (at least for now) Kingdom flaunt our delight in it at every opportunity, and our press barons make great play of allowing readers to have their say. One of our quality broadsheets, The Sunday Times, regularly invites culture vultures onto the pages of one of its supplements, Culture. There, in the column entitled You Say, they are offered an opportunity to vent their spleen, or otherwise, about our TV fare. And so, in this week’s edition, we stumbled on the following, rather indignant, pronouncement.

Whatever has happened to BBC Breakfast? Its decline in standards and quality is dropping like an express elevator. Whatever happened to high-quality professional journalists/ broadcasters?

The thing is, whenever one exercises one’s right to this cherished freedom it might be an idea to engage one’s cerebral cortex first. If something is dropping – albeit metaphorically – it diminishes, of course. So the viewers of BBC Breakfast can, in fact, rejoice: the decline is slowing down. Alas, the incensed reader said the exact opposite of what he was attempting to say, which was this.

  Its standards and quality are dropping like an express elevator (rather than their decline).

Or this.

Its decline in standards and quality is accelerating like an express elevator.

And whatever happened to newspaper sub-editors?