Satirical verse: UKIP Brexit if you want to

As my Brexit-inspired satire continues, here is my mini-glossary for those reading this post outside Great Britain.

UKIP stands for the UK Independence Party, which is a Eurosceptic and right-wing populist political party in Great Britain. The party strongly opposes immigration, pledging to reduce it to zero within five years. Incidentally, the wife (alluded to below) of the party’s former leader (who is a great fan of President Trump) is German.

Brexit refers to the British exit from the European Union, narrowly voted for in the 2016 EU membership referendum. Brexit has bitterly divided the country, and even the government cannot seem to agree what sort of Brexit it wants. Needless to say, Europe is baffled …  


We don’t want no immigration

To pollute this brilliant nation;

We were once the purest race

Which this Mother Earth did grace

(Sorry, there is one correction:

German wives are an exception),


But the EU plots and schemes

To extinguish our dreams

About being alien-free

In this land of ours – see?

Our challenge is immense –

We must mount a bold defence.


When we seal our porous border

We’ll restore all law and order,

And, to pick our fruit and veg,

We will summon good old Reg

(He is 80 – did we mention? –

This will help him boost his pension).


We will stop most foreign aid

And engage in global trade

Beyond EU neighbourhood

(North Korea would be good),

Plus, in line with our agendum,

We will rule by referendum.


Also (you’ll be filled with glee),

We will let you park for free*

When you do your weekly shop

(We don’t reckon it’s a sop:

As an ordinary Brit,

You’ll be rather badly hit**).


Even if our gut gets busted,

We want to be done and dusted

By the end of next year – max;

See how neatly all this stacks?

(We can – by all indicators –

Trust our clever negotiators.)


To take charge of our laws,

We must rally to the cause

With a zealous incantation:

“We are here to save our nation,

And, in Donald’s dazzling vein,

We’ll make Britain great again!”


*For at least 30 minutes

**In your pocket




Wanna know – that’s by the way –

What folk Googled the next day***?

“What’s this construct called EU?”

You are laughing? It is true;

Still, we say: “You know the score,

That’s**** what you have voted for.”


***After the 2016 referendum on Britain’s EU membership

****Whatever that is; if the government still (at the beginning of 2018) can’t agree about what sort of Brexit it wants (hard, soft or anything in-between), you can jolly well make up your own wish list and announce that this is exactly what you have voted for – hey ho!


Not Quite a Frolic 14: The distributive singular

I dedicate this post – with thanks – to my fellow blogger Deborah Drucker, whose comment on my previous post has prompted its revision and spurred me on to write this one.

 I had every intention of frolicking with you today, but a remark from Deborah has prompted me to comment further on the so-called ‘distributive singular’, which was mentioned in yesterday’s post. Deborah pointed out (albeit most pleasantly) that the singular ‘life’, which I suggested using instead of the plural ‘lives’, sounded ‘funny’ – and she did have a point in that this particular example wasn’t very good, both forms being in use. That will teach me not to try to squeeze too much out of a quote, the one in question having been chosen for quite a different purpose. Happily, this post affords me the opportunity to regale you with more apposite examples from my collection.

Whether to use the distributive singular is a matter of idiom – of what sounds natural in English. You may think this a bit rich coming from me: after all, I am a Pole for whom English is – or at least used to be – a foreign language, but, after nearly five decades of feasting on English grammar and over 30 years of living in Britain, I have become quite attuned to this fabulous language – though many idioms still remain a challenge. Here come my examples.

A few days ago, I nearly went flying when I dashed to grab a pen so that I could jot down what I’d just heard on BBC Radio 4, which went like this.

“Schools are doing great jobs.”

 How does it sound to you (particularly if you are a native speaker of English) – wouldn’t you say: “Schools are doing a great job”? If you would, you would be using the distributive singular. Another example (which I quoted in my reply to Deborah) comes from The Economist.

“They are the ones who turned blind eyes to the concoction of credit …”

 This one should definitely be: “those who turned a blind eye” – even if the esteemed Economist thinks otherwise. And how does the quote below, from The Times Educational Supplement, grab you?

 “92 per cent of secondary pupils own mobiles.”

 I wonder how many mobiles each of them owns But change ‘mobiles’ to ‘mobile’ and the ambiguity disappears. The next quote is also from The Times Educational Supplement.

 “Collaboration is all very well, but principals have enough on their plates without having to support other schools.”

 Nope: they have enough on their plate. My final example has been culled from The Sunday Times.

 “Life expectancies were much lower before the 20th century came along.”

 ‘Fraid not: what was lower was life expectancy.  This is what the authors of the fabulous Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language, four distinguished professors, have to say on the subject. (I haven’t used quotation marks around their examples.)

 “The singular is sometimes obligatory or preferable with idioms and metaphors.”

 We are keeping an open mind. [PROBABLY NOT open minds]

They vented their spleen on him. [DEFINITELY NOT spleens]

They can’t put their finger on what’s wrong. [DEFINITELY NOT their fingers]

 “The distributive singular is sometimes used to avoid ambiguity.”

 Students were asked to name their favourite sport. [NOT sports]

Children must be accompanied by a parent. [NOT NECESSARILY parents]

So that’s the distributive singular in a nutshell. Tomorrow’s post will definitely be a ‘proper’ frolic. I hope you will all have a lovely weekend – NOT lovely weekends (those too, but NOT this week)!

Post 11: Appalling listeners and chequered pupils

Area: coherence
Topic: importance of editing

“Do you have a gun also?” enquired Utari during our break from navigating the choppy waters of English usage. Unable to source anchovy fish cakes (my pupil having confessed her great partiality to teri, by which she apparently meant anchovies), I obtained a herring substitute from Tesco’s and was trying hard to play a perfect hostess, Google having enlightened me that, in Utari’s homeland, fish cakes were a popular snack.
“A gun? Of course I don’t have a gun – it’s illegal. Unless you are licensed.”
“Wave … Waverley, she is licensed?”
“No, I don’t think so.”
“So she is illegal?”
“Illegal? Why?”
“Because she shoots.”
“Shoots? I don’t think so, Utari.”
“But she said.”
“What exactly did she say?”
“Must shoot.”
“Oh, Utari, ha, ha, ha! She’s always saying this; it means ‘must dash’.”
“O-o-o-o; awful – awful-ly confusing.”
“Yep, English is full of idiomatic expressions.”
“Idio, idio … ?”
“Matic – idiomatic; English has thousands of them. They have a figurative meaning beyond their literal translation.”
“They have?”
“Yep, they can be quite hard for a non-native to decipher: you just have to learn what each means. Do you remember when I said that we might as well wrap up?”
“I remember.”
“That’s a good example of an idiomatic expression. Now, take ‘bite off more than you can chew’.”
“Thank you, your teri, it is not like at home but I like. But I think I never take such a big bite.”
“I don’t think, Utari.”
“You also?”
“No, no, we put the negative in the main clause – I keep telling you. But this was another example of an idiom: it means to take on more than you can actually manage.”
The pseudo-teri fishcake suspended half-way between the plate and Utari’s mouth, my pupil mouthed the new expression with great concentration: “Take bite off more than you can chew.”
“No, no, drop the take.”
Utari nodded and repeated the troublesome idiom several times. Although our break turned out to be gratifyingly – albeit unexpectedly – educational, it was time to press on if we were to cover the topic planned for that morning. “So what have you learnt about the young people in Britain, Utari?” I had earlier supplied her with carefully selected newspaper articles, which she was supposed to read before going to bed the night before.
“I think they … they are not very modest.”
“I don’t think they are modest, Utari! But why don’t you think they are modest?”
“Because … because … I cannot say. Read this please.” With this, Utari, her physiognomy betraying what looked like embarrassment, pointed at a sentence from a piece from The Guardian. The sentence went like this.

We all know about the media fixation with sex, but Phin’s view is that parents could do more.

“It is not modest; in Java, we respect parents.”
“No, no, Utari, they didn’t mean it like this.”
“But they said.”
“No, no, it just came out wrong. This boy, Phin, thought that parents could do more to educate youngsters about the importance of not rushing into sex. You see, it’s not enough to know what you are trying to say.”
“No: you must always stop to check if you are actually saying it. But people sometimes don’t; I’ve told you I have millions of examples.”
“Well OK, it’s a bit of a hyperbole, but I have plenty.”
“Hyper what?”
“Hyperbole – it means exaggeration. That’s what this prominent labour politician said on Radio 2. He was lamenting the violence in the lyrics of rap songs.”

It is appalling, and so are the listeners.

“Our listeners, they are good usually.”
“But that’s the whole point, Utari: he was trying to say that listeners were appalled. Or this; I found it in The Times Educational Supplement.”

He accuses teachers of double standards when dealing with black and white pupils.

“He didn’t mean … ”
“No, no, Utari, our pupils aren’t chequered! He meant ‘when dealing with black as opposed to white pupils’. Now, this one has been penned by a well-known columnist writing for The Sunday Times.”

70% of children have televisions in their bedrooms, as do almost half of five to seven-year-olds.

“So, so … are they not … ”
“Don’t worry, Utari; when I last looked, five- to seven-year-olds were children. I think she meant ‘and, of those, almost half are between five and seven’. And this was in The Guardian.”

It’s a slim tower, so the shadow will be short.

On this occasion, Utari emitted a gratifying chuckle. “The shadow, it will be narrow?”
“You bet; the slimness of the tower has nothing to do with the length of its shadow. I remember a brilliant contradiction by a reader whose comment was published by The Sunday Times.”

People protest when football gets its biannual monthly showing.

“What’s biannual?”
“Occurring twice a year.”
Another chuckle was an unmistakable sigh that Utari had grasped the point.
“You see, I keep banging on about the importance grammar and punctuation, but lucid communication is about more than that. Obviously, vocabulary also plays a crucial part, so you have to put all those ingredients together, but you can still drop the ball.”
“I think I cannot: I do not play.”
“I DON’T THINK I can, Utari, I DON’T THINK I can! It’s another idiom; it means to make a mistake. What I always say is that there is no substitute for logical thought; you need to read back and edit. And then edit some more. It’s more tricky with speech, of course, but you can still correct yourself after you said something silly. How about this little ditty?”

If you write, then think and edit,
You deserve enormous credit;
If, however, you do not,
What you pen may go to pot.

What pot?”
“No, no, it’s another idiom, Utari; it means going to the dogs.”
“Some of our people, they barbecue dogs. They make kambing balap.”
“No, no, Utari … oh never mind!”