Sunday, 24 January 2021

Oh no! But oh yes! Fronted adverbials don't have to do what adverbs do grammatically!!!

This is both a confession and a revelation.

 I think my previous blog post here is 'wrong'. It's 'correct' in so far as that's the way fronted adverbials are being taught in primary schools. However, after a few hours combing grammar pages, I see that most of us are getting the term wrong in some respects. What follows here is me getting what it is I think that the grammarians think 'fronted adverbials' are, as opposed to everyone else in the world apart from grammarians. 


Here's a  construction: 

'Having started out muggy, the weather was good.'

('Having started out muggy' is what some people call a 'participial phrase'  but here it probably (possibly? possibly not? I'm not 100% sure) stands as what they would call  a 'fronted adverbial'.  

That 'having...' bit we use quite a lot along with other '-ing' words. 

In this context, they call this kind of '-ing' word a 'participle'. (Please don't use another -ing word as you're reading this even if you're getting angry, it's not my fault.)

Another common construction is the 'As a...' one. 

'As a north Londoner, I would say that it's no surprise I support Arsenal.' 

Is this a 'fronted adverbial'? 

To my mind the phrase, 'As a north Londoner' is about me and so feels as if it's a little bit 'adjectival'. 

Aha,  say the grammarians, even though it's called an 'adverbial' it doesn't have to be adverbial in a grammatical sense! I kid you not. This is what they say. In other words a fronted adverbial doesn't have to behave like an adverb:

(quick note on adverbs,  which  they say, elsewhere, means that it does stuff to verbs, does stuff to adjectives and other adverbs and does stuff to whole sentences as with:

 'He jumped up quickly' ('quickly'), 

'He jumped up very quickly' ('very'). 

'She has a very good job.' ('very') and 

'I'm happy, though.' 

('though' as what we used to call a 'sentence adverb' like 'however', 'furthermore' )). 

The point some grammarians want to make about 'fronted adverbials' is that for them it's a catch-all term for stuff we bung up the front of sentences - EVEN IF THEY'RE NOT ADVERBIAL IN THE GRAMMATICAL SENSE! That's because it's a term to describe the process of fronting words and phrases - WHETHER THEY'RE LIKE ADVERBS  OR NOT! 

The point you might want to make, dear reader, is why for heaven's sake call it an 'adverbial'? You know the answer? It's because, they say the term 'adverbial' doesn't mean behaves exactly like adverbs GRAMMATICALLY,  but because the term describes the kind of word or phrase that can go almost anywhere in a sentence. Like this: 'Mostly I go out'. 'I mostly go out'. 'I go out, mostly'. And in a sentence that you were speaking and hesitating you could even (just about) say, 'I go...mostly...out' (as opposed to going somewhere else other than 'out'.) 

The term  'adverbial' is in effect about 'style' of writing ('stylistics') but not strictly and narrowly about grammar! Some people call this 'pragmatics' too. 

The funny thing here is that the grammarians haven't explained all this to all the text books and poor teachers teaching this stuff.  And I didn't 'get' is first time either! So, not only is it being taught, but it's being taught wrongly. And they're keeping quiet about it. Does the DfE know? Do the SATs examiners know? Does Gavin Williamson know? Does Michael Gove know? 

It doesn't get funnier than this. 

The previous blog post, then, is either wrong, or not the whole truth. I've left it up to show you that someone  (me) who learned three languages, studied Old English at university and a  course in philology  and has read widely around linguistics since, has got an MA, and a Ph.D in literary studies (for children), has got it wrong at the first go. 

 

Saturday, 23 January 2021

OK, this is what a fronted adverbial is.

In spite of everything I've been saying for the last ten years and in spite of today's Guardian and in spite of the the blog on the previous page, here is a description of what a fronted adverbial is:

Luckily, the weather was good.

('Luckily' is what's known as an 'adverb' here.)

In the morning, the weather was good.

('In the morning', is what's known as an 'adverbial phrase' here.)

When I was out, the weather was good.

('When I was out', is what's known as an 'adverbial phrase' here.)



These 'adverbials' are 'fronted' because they are 'in front of' the 'main clause' , 'the weather was good'.

Everybody who speaks English uses these constructions when they speak and write. We often do it as a way of emphasising something or selecting something for interest. 


We also put 'adverbials' in the middle of sentences and at the end of sentences. We do this to emphasise or make things interesting too. But it all depends on who we are, who we're talking to or writing for,  or what 'genre' we are in: eg a newspaper or a  TV script or talking on a chat show, or with our friends or wherever.

In German, this matter of putting things 'in front of' the main clause results in the speaker or writer having to do something with the structure of the main clause: they have to switch it round so that the 'main verb' comes in front of the 'subject'. We do this sometimes in poetry. It usually sounds a bit antiquated or poetic or bit like a rhetorical speech eg

'On the river bank, lay the two dogs.' 

The term 'fronted adverbial' poses two problems. The people who've prioritised it as a 'good' language structure to use in writing, haven't said why it's better than a middle or rear adverbial or even mentioned that middle or rear adverbials exist.

 Secondly they haven't said whether 'fronted adjectivals' exist eg

'Pink toed, his feet shone in the light.'

Clearly, 'pink toed' (or pink-toed', as you wish) is to do with his feet. It's adjectival. 

This is an example of how when you prod and poke this terminology it keeps collapsing. 

Enjoy. 




Primary school grammar - the issues

I've written an article in today's Guardian about parents having to teach their primary aged children 'grammar' as a result of lockdown. 


I'll make the following points about this 'grammar'.

[I haven't proof read this yet!]


1. It is only and entirely addressed to matter of what is taught in primary schools -apart from when I refer specifically to 'secondary'.  It follows from this that this discussion is about what is suitable to be taught to under-11s, and what is the priority that it be taught to under-11s as opposed to other subjects in general or other topics to do with language. For under-11s.


'Suitability' is a matter of child development. Education has long decided that some things are too 'hard' for primary aged children to get hold of: eg algebra, quantum physics, metabolism of the liver, tectonic plate shifts, genetics...(please feel free to put in any other subjects you know of).

'Other topics' is a matter of why 'grammar' (which is mostly about 'sentence grammar')  is thought to be more important than other kinds of knowledge about language eg why and how do we write and talk in different ways for different 'genres' and different kinds of people? Why do we do this? What is dialect? Has language changed? How? Why? Why do people speak English in many different ways around the world? How do we choose what to write, how do we choose how to write? Where do we go to find these different ways? Can we imitate these different ways? 

As this 'grammar' is sometimes put forward as being the 'nuts and bolts' of writing, how come some people can write without knowing it? Are there other 'nuts and bolts'? I teach the grammar of writing stories. This involves me teaching, for example, openers, cliff-hangers, reveal-conceal, story cogs, point of view, interiority, how to convert 'being there', pre-figuring the climax, red herrings, flashbacks, flash forwards, narrative voice(s), use of previous texts ('intertextuality') etc etc. I'm only mentioning this as an example of how 'grammar' of sentences is by no means the only way to look at the 'nuts and bolts' of what we read or say. 


2. It is vital to remember that this 'sentence grammar' was not brought in because Michael Gove - or anybody else - thought that it was a good idea for reasons that it was the best thing to be taught! It was brought in for one reason only: to assess teachers. This is stated quite explicitly in the Bew Report of 2011. This was on 'Accountability and Assessment' - not on language. They were looking for a way to assess teachers. They decided that 'grammar' has 'right and wrong' answers (it doesn't) and so that would do as a way of assessing teachers because a) teachers would teach it, b) children would be examined on it, and c) the scores could be put on a graph which would show that this or that teacher was good, OK or bad. That's why this grammar was brought in to primary schools. 

The government then hired some 'grammarians' to dish up the grammar to teach and test. They did. One grammarian lobbed in 'fronted adverbial' which was a strange one for many of the grammarians and linguists, who by and large had never used the term. 


This leads us on to 'terminology'.


3. So, setting aside the issues of a) this is for primary schools and b) it was only ever brought in for purposes of assessment of teachers, let's look at problems with this kind of 'grammar' and what schools are asked to do with it.

a) It's based on the idea that language can be described in terms of 'classes' and 'functions'.  For old fashioned people like me who learned much of this stuff at secondary school when I was doing French, Latin and German and later 'Old English' or Anglo-Saxon as it is often called, we used to use other terms for this. 'Classes' we called 'parts of speech' and I don't remember that we did call  'functions'.  I think we used to say, 'what are they doing in the sentence?' I think. Sentences are classified (simple, complex etc)  but mostly linguists steer clear of classifying paragraphs and chapters, though secondary teachers will know much better than me that they now have to teach PEP paragraphs and the like. These are prescriptive requirements for how a paragraph must be written in order to get marks in an exam. Other paragraphs not permitted. 


Are there any problems with the 'classes'/'functions' way of describing language? The main problem is that we can often only determine the class by looking at its function. Analogy: we can do anatomy of the heart and say, 'those are the valves'. But we can only know they are valves if we see the things doing what valves do: opening and closing to allow or not allow flow. It's the same with language. We can only say that this or that is a noun or a verb or an adjective when we see it doing what nouns and verbs do! That's because words can act in different ways, depending on the context and use. 

The word 'proud' is mostly an 'adjective'. In 'Romeo and Juliet' Juliet's father says to Juliet, 'Proud me no prouds'. In that sentence 'proud' is doing the job that a verb would do AND  a noun. We can only know that in the context of that sentence. So we can't say 'proud' is an adjective. We have to say, it all depends on what it's doing. 

Further, the terminology of these classes and functions is misleading, particularly for young people new to the idea of terminology and particularly if they themselves are being told to be accurate about language! So here are some classes again: adverb, adjective, noun, verb. Here are some functions: subject, verb. What?! So the word 'verb' is both a class and a function? A noun can be a subject, and a verb can be...er...a verb. Brilliant. 

c) Then there are structures. Some people call this grammar, some call it 'syntax'. Some people call them both. I was taught the following structures: words, phrases, clauses, sentences. (Other uses of language were not usually taught us as grammar eg rhetoric, conversations, chapters, novels, political speeches, essays even though they could be as these all have grammars too and could be taught and learned as part of learning how to write - which I think is one of the objectives here isn't it? )

We were taught that verbs come as 'finite' or 'non-finite'. Here is a finite verb in a sentence: 'Trump left the White House'. The word 'left' is the finite verb. It's called a finite verb because, they say, it helps to make a 'complete sentence' in this context. It can also be changed to 'might leave' or to 'is leaving' or to 'has left'. Verbs change. However, these finite verbs are mostly (not always!) made finite when they have a 'subject' written into the sentence. Here it is 'Trump'. So in a way, the verb is 'Trump left'. And indeed when French children learn the verbs they say anyway, they sing out eg (in French) 'Je suis, tu es, il est, nous sommes, vous êtes, ils sommes'. 'I am, you [when you're being familiar] are, he is, we are, you are [polite and plural], they are.' This is  called 'conjugating'. 

Ok so, phrases, we were told don't include 'finite verbs', clauses do. We then divided up sentences into these phrases and clauses. We then gave the phrases and clauses names. Phrases, they told us could be 'adjectival' or 'adverbial'. If they were adjectival they described nouns. If they were adverbial they described verbs, they said. At one level of this classification of clauses were 'main clauses and 'subordinate clauses'. Subordinate clauses had another system of classification: they could be clauses 'of' something eg of 'time' or they could be 'conditional clauses' or 'concessionary clauses' or 'relative clauses' etc.


(Reality check: these were all taught to us at secondary school. Not primary school. At primary school we were taught at most, nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, conjunctions and prepositions. This was then tested at 11 as a way of deciding whether you could go to grammar school or not. Most - not.)


Most of this looks all neat and tidy but any time spent reading about grammar and syntax,  you soon come across arguments over terminology and indeed whether this or that way of chopping up sentences makes sense. You might know of examples yourself. 

We might learn that subjects have to be 'nouns'. Well, we soon also learn that actually what subjects are are 'noun phrases'. Here is a noun phrase: 'The dog' or 'The blue dog' or 'The very blue dog'. Each of these phrases could be the subject in a sentence that tells us about this dog...eating, say. In that noun phrase is a 'the', in two of them there is 'blue' and in one of them is 'very'. So they say, the noun phrase contains a 'determiner' (what we used to call 'the definite article) 'the', the adjective 'blue' and the adverb 'very'. Word of warning: there is no good reason why the word 'adverb' should refer to a word that modifies verbs AND  word that modified adjectives AND modifies whole sentences. But it does. Because it's a useless bit of terminology that no scientist would accept for a minute. 

But subjects can also be whole clauses (according to the above difference between phrases and clauses if you want that one. Some grammarians don't.) 'That I am an idiot is something well known in these circles'. The clause 'That I'm an idiot' is a 'noun clause'. It's the 'subject' of the verb 'is'. It includes a pronoun ('I') a verb 'am', a determiner which is also an 'indefinite article 'an' and a noun 'idiot'. 

So all this is a way of segmenting sentences. Some of this is taught in primary schools, some of it is not. There seems to be some whole fetish going on about needing to distinguish between prepositions and co-ordinating and subordinating conjunctions. Never mind what these are for the moment. What should be remembered here is that there is at least one famous grammarian who thinks that some of these distinctions are false. He says that there should be no different terms for when we say, 'before lunch' and  when we say, 'before it was lunch'.  The word 'before', he says, is doing the same thing. (I learned that in one it's beginning a phrase and the other a clause. He says, so what?) This is an example of how this terminology business is always a work in progress, a work in dispute. In fact, almost all these terms and distinctions are constantly under review and being changed. A few years ago children were obediently learning about 'connectives'. Then they were junked and now children are not learning 'connectives'. This change isn't because something new has been discovered. Repeat: it's not science. This is about fad and just what one 'expert' says against another as ways of classifying and segmenting sentences. 


d) Where does all this grammar stuff come from? It's interesting (for me!) to look at this, and the answer is that it started out as a way of describing written Latin. Another reality check: written Latin is not Latin. It's written Latin. Latin is the language spoken and written by millions of people all over Europe during the time of the Roman Empire. Written Latin is the written form of the language produced by a tiny elite. The majority of people couldn't write, and spoke Latin however they wanted to. So this grammar was a way of describing one part of this language. Why is this important? Because formal writing is usually a very precise, rule-bound form of language. When we speak, we do many things that writing cannot do or chooses not to do: hesitate, repeat, say incomplete things, use many more pronouns, use emphasis through our way of speaking, avoid 'front-loading' sentences, with phrases and clauses before the main clause and use a lot of sounds that are not usually classed as word even though they have meaning - think of the many ways we use 'mm' as 'mm?' or as 'mm!' and so on. 'Grammar' is not interested in this sort of thing but we as language-users are very interested in them. By the way there are people who study speech who are interested in this sort of thing!


So if 'grammar' started out as a description of written Latin, why is that a problem to us? Because the descriptions of one, don't fit the other. In Latin, grammarians say there is something called an 'infinitive'. The way 'to love' in Latin is one word 'amare'. As I just wrote, we say that with two words, 'to love'. Some grammarians say that 'to love' is the infinitive. Others say, English doesn't have an infinitive. We just use a preposition 'to' and recycle one form of the verb 'love' or 'eat' etc and make something that is a verb without a subject or some such that we use either to give a name to a verb as in the technical phrase,  'the verb to  love' or in sentences like 'To know, know know you, is to love, love, love you', or 'I want to love you'. 

Another example is the 'subjunctive'. In French, one of the languages that developed out of Latin, there is a whole way to say and write verbs in order to indicate things like doubt, uncertainty, possibility and on occasions, obligation.  So if you say to someone, 'I must do it', one way is to use a construction that included a form of the verb that is the subjunctive. You can 'conjugate' it. It's a complete 'verb form'. English as a set of phrases that are not terribly common as with 'Were I to do it' or 'I suggest you be quiet'. In the first, 'were I' or "I were' is a regional dialect form of 'to be' ('I were going out'), but here it is something else. 'I suggest you be quiet' could be 'I suggest you should be quiet'. Some people have said in the past this 'were' and this 'be' are examples of the subjective deducing it from eg French. Others say this usage is too limited to be given the grand word 'subjunctive'. Better to think of another word to describe something so particular. 

Why's it in the SPaG type grammar? Because Gove insisted that it should be! I know that from the grapevine. Gove who is not a linguist decided what should be taught in primary schools. Perfect example of the arbitrary dictatorial and useless way in which things have been decided. 

A further example is 'tense' in verbs. We talk of eg present tense, past tense, future tense'. This derives directly from descriptions of written, elite Latin where a given verb form matches a given time frame. In modern English this doesn't work. For example we have no future tense. We can't take a verb and make it into a future form. We have to use auxiliaries like 'will' or 'shall'  or 'going to'. Or we can use a present tense (so-called) and say 'Tomorrow' or 'When I get home' as with 'I'm going out tomorrow' or 'When I get home, I'm having some toast'. You can go through the verb forms and see how you can stretch them to express different time frames. The most obvious is that novels in English are expressed mostly in the so-called 'past tense' but describe things that are 'present'. Clearly a new term is needed to describe time frames and how we express them in language using a combination of verbs, prepositions, auxiliary verbs, adverbs, adverbial clauses and phrases, etc etc. But this grammar is so inert and antiquated it can't even describe something as obvious as how we express time! 




e) As we know, children (and adults!) can learn some or all of this stuff by learning aspects of it by simplifying, cheating and getting it of by heart.  So at school we had tables of 'header words' for the different kind of clauses. This meant we learned the header words rather than learning the classication of clauses according to their meaning and purpose. A clause of concession, they told us, begins with 'though' or 'although'. Great. Learn it. I went into the exam and there was a clause that began with 'No matter when...' Arrrggghhh! We hadn't learned that as a header word. It was a trick question. What kind of clause follows 'No matter when...'?  I didn't know. I failed that question, as did thousands of others who had been taught by kind and honest teachers trying to get us through O-level  with short cut ways to learn types of clauses - which leads us on to why did they stop teaching grammar in secondary schools...which will  lead us on to the question of asking what's missing from this 'sentence grammar'? 


f) People often say that the reason why they stopped teaching grammar was either because it was deemed to be too hard or that it was because lefty teachers (like me) took over education and deemed it to be bad. In fact, neither cause is right. What happened was the old O-level English paper had at least three sections: one 'grammar' and two 'composition' (a kind of essay)  and three 'précis' ( a strict rule-bound way of summarising a passage).  

After 30 years of marking these papers - that's hundreds and thousands of students - examiners found no correlation between the grammar question and the composition question. In other words, no connection could be found to show that eg a) students good at grammar were good at writing or b) students bad at grammar couldn't be good at writing etc . No correlation. That's why they stopped teaching it and said we could or should teach other things to help students write in secondary schools.


g) What might be the reason why there was no correlation? Because using grammar to create sentences is not the same as writing. As I said earlier, writing stories or essays or speeches involve other kinds of grammar and 'stylistics' - ie the matter of how we write. I've written at length about this in my booklets.  I would argue that 'stylistics' are easily as important as this kind of 'sentence grammar' ,  if not more important to help people do extended writing.

One reason why knowing sentence grammar doesn't help us is because it is at heart an abstract almost mathematical code mapped on to sentences. Often it doesn't correspond to active, lively speech and writing. You can learn the whole lot and then walk past adverts or listen to two people talking and quickly discover that the terminology doesn't fit what they are doing. Grammarians try to get round a lot of this stuff by using terms like 'block language' or that the word 'x' is missing but 'understood'. In terms of real language use, an example would be us saying things like, 'You going out?' 'Yep.' There's nothing wrong with this. We all talk like this. If grammar was really about describing language, it would describe it in terms of what it is, not in terms of what it isn't and we would teach it in order to learn how language works. 


h) The bigger reason why there was no correlation between grammar and writing is that the grammar that was taught and is taught now is devoid of the social component. That's to say, people talk and write. We all do. Language is ours, no  matter what grammarians do with it. The reason why we say and write what we do comes from: who we are, who we are talking or writing to and for, what kind of 'genre' we are in (chat, a TV script, a political essay, instructions for fixing a washing machine, a newspaper article, a chat show...etc etc) and where we are in what we're trying to say - eg am I convincing you, do I need to repeat this, shall I change tack and tell a joke, shall I skip the next bit because it's irrelevant, shall I pop in a question or a tease, or a reference to a bit of shared culture...etc etc? 

This is a mix of stylistics, rhetoric, pyscholinguistics and sociolinguistics - as it happens the subjects and topics of the radio programme I've been presenting for the last 20 years, 'Word of Mouth' on BBC Radio 4. 

The 'grammar' of SPaG tries to eliminate these social and contextual aspects of language. I believe this is pointless, misleading and ultimately a dead end. It keeps insisting that these parts of speech and functions explain language-use. At best they are only ever partial explanations and they are never 'rules', at best they are shared conventions for particular kinds of language use. What's more, this kind of grammar is useless for describing or explaining a key aspect of language - language change. Why did the grammarians in my childhood say that we should never write, 'don't' or 'I'm' but we now can? Who decided? Answer: we did! I notice that SPaG grammar dubs this as 'informal language' without explaining what this sociolinguistic phenomenon is and why 'formal language' is seemingly superior and more necessary. 

----------------

I have written about this stuff many time before. If you use the search tags on this blog of 'SPaG, or Grammar, or SATs, you'll find many, many more blogs on the matter. 


Thanks for reading. 




Friday, 22 January 2021

Letter to Guardian about Covid - not published

 Letter to Guardian not published

(not complaining, it was too long, but I had to get it off my chest):

Dear sir/madam
Jonathan Freedland’s comment ‘Lies about Covid, insisting that it was a hoax cooked up by the deep state, led millions of people to drop their guard and get infected” (‘Trump may be gone but his big lie will linger’ Guardian, Jan 15) misses the point. If we look closely at what was being said in official circles in March 2020, we can see quite clearly there was a plan to create ‘herd immunity’ without vaccination.

Robert Peston had his usual inside story on March 12 in ‘The Spectator’ with a headline “Herd immunity’ will be vital to stopping Coronavirus’ and wrote of this desirable outcome without mentioning the inevitable huge loss of life involved nor the high chance of it being unachievable.

A day later, 3 government scientists sang the same tune:
Graham Medley told BBC Newsnight, ‘We’re going to have to generate herd immunity…the only way of developing that in the absence of a vaccine is for the majority of the population to become infected…’

Sir Patrick Vallance said that morning on the Today programme, ‘Our aim is to try and reduce the peak, broaden the peak, not suppress it completely; also because the vast majority of people get a mild illness, to build up some kind of herd immunity.’
Same day, John Edmunds said, ‘The only way to stop this epidemic is indeed to achieve herd immunity’.

These people were talking of engineering mass death. It's not as if science is unaware of the Black Death, Myxomatosis, or Dutch Elm Disease. At the time, Boris Johnson was appearing on TV telling us that he was shaking hands with Covid patients.

The extraordinary fact is that this idea of ‘herd immunity’ without vaccination is lousy biology. No one knew then how long or short nor how strong or weak the body’s immune response would be to this virus. No one knew how often it would mutate nor how different the mutations would be from the original virus. These scientists were gambling with ‘known unknowns’ some of which would result in no 'herd immunity'. What’s more, the limited ‘herd immunity’ without vaccination that occurs naturally usually involves the evolutionary process of ‘breeding out’ (through death, before they reproduce) of those individuals who are susceptible to the virus and the ‘breeding in’ of those who are resistant, assuming the resistance is inheritable. This takes generations to effect - if ever. The problem for this scenario is that the section of the population most affected by the virus is above ‘breeding’ age! This negates the process by which evolution favours resistant individuals.

It seems to me horrific that top scientists were able to put forward their proposals to enact mass killing without being challenged, either on ethical or biological grounds. If you want to find out why or how this government has been lax, chaotic, incompetent and cruel in its approach to Covid-19, it starts here. The consequence is that there have been tens of thousands of deaths, and there are tens of thousands of us with long term or lifetime debilitating consequences.

They must never be let off the hook.

Yours faithfully
Michael Rosen

Monday, 18 January 2021

Mr Mensh Books


Before I was ill Smokestack Books published a book of my poems for adults called 'Mr Mensh'.
This is the title poem: 


I’m not sure that the estate of Roger

Hargreaves would give permission but

sometimes I lie in bed imagining a

special series to go with the Mr Men

books...they’re Mr Mensh books,

a tribute to my parents and

all the words they called me:




Mr Shlump - the guy who walks about

in clothes he’s been wearing all week.

Mr Shloch- the guy who walks about

in clothes he’s been wearing all year

Mr Mommser - the guy who you don’t want

to know.

Mr Shpilkes - the guy who’s always worried

Mr Tsirres - the guy who’s got reason to be

worried because he’s in trouble

Mr Shtuch - the guy who’s also in trouble but

it’s a bit more trouble

Mr Dr’erd _ the guy who’s in even more trouble

Mr Mittandring - the guy who’s in even more trouble

Mr Dreck - the guy who’s crap

Mr Nebbish - the guy who looks like he’s turned everything

into crap

Mr Varkakhte - the guy who looks like he’s crapped himself

Mr Bubkes - the guy who talks rubbish

Mr Pisher - the guy who is rubbish

Mr Bubbele - the guy who is so much of a mummy’s boy he’s a grandmother’s boy

Mr Shmerel - the guy who’s a bit of a fool

Mr Shlemiel - the other guy who’s a bit of a fool

Mr Shmendrik - and another guy who’s a bit of fool

Mr Kvell - the guy who’s very proud of his son for having madei some soup

Mr Kvetsh - the guy who moans about the soup

Mr Chup - the guy who slurps the soup

Mr Shmalts - the guy who’s dribbled the soup down his front

Mr Shnorrer -the guy who wants your soup

Mr Chap - the guy who grabs your soup

Mr Chazze - the guy who can’t stop having soup

Mr Shmooze - the guy who sweet-talks you to get your soup off you

Mr Zhuzh - the guy who can turn a lousy soup into a good soup

Mr Knakke - the guy who thinks he knows more than your son about how to make soup

Mr Meshugge - the guy who talks nonsense about the soup

Mr Kibbitz - the guy who wants to have a chat while you’re having the soup

Mr Yachner - the guy who can’t stop talking about the soup

Mr Gantse Magilla - the guy who talks about every single thing that’s in the soup

Mr Gubba - the guy who tells you how to make the soup

Mr Ganuf - the guy who nicks your soup

Mr Shtum - the guy who keeps quiet about the guy who nicked your soup

Mr Kishkes - the guy who says that soup gives him a belly-ache

Mr Greps - the guy who has his soup and burps

Mr Fotz -the guy who has his soup and farts

Mr Gantse Macher - the guy who owns the soup factory

Mr Bocher - the guy who’s reading a book about the soup.

Tuesday, 12 January 2021

What could journalists have asked about 'herd immunity' without vaccination?

My blog of December 24 2020 is a collection of statements by politicians, journalists and scientists about 'herd immunity' without vaccination.


Let's ask, what might journalists have asked those people who advocating that route?


1. How many dead people would your plan involve?

2. Will you tell the public this so that the public can choose whether this sacrifice is worth it?

3. How do you know if 'herd immunity' without vaccination works? What about the Black Death, Myxomatosis, and Dutch Elm Disease? 

4. What if the virus mutates?

5. What if the immune response is weak and/or short-lived?

6. In evolution, some kinds of herd immunity occur through the 'breeding out' of the susceptible. This works on the basis that the 'weak' gene(s) ie the ones belonging to the people most likely to suffer the most from the disease, die out when the host (the person) dies. The people least likely to suffer survive, thrive  and 'breed'. The cause of the 'resistance' is either that the resistant gene pre-exists the disease or that a mutation in the gene(s) occurs which is resistant and those with this mutation thrive, breed and multiply. 


This takes several or many generations to achieve depending on how quickly the species breeds. Rabbits breed quickly. Humans breed slowly. This kind of herd immunity in the face of a virus like Covid-19 would take decades and millions dead. If that's what scientists meant or advocated, they should tell us. 


However, as they knew, the people most likely to get ill and die from Covid-19 are old! That's to say,  past the time of 'breeding' in which case the evolutionary push to create resistance isn't present. 


(I did the equivalent to A-level study of evolution and genetics when I did 2 years of medicine. I have tried to keep up with what's written about these things. If I am wrong about any of the above, please contact me on twitter or Facebook.) 

Sunday, 3 January 2021

 Chapter 2 in the adventures of King Boris ad the Gas Army:


2) King Boris visits a hospital where the gas had got in. Boris breathes in the gas and says, he’s fine.

The Daily Boris says: good news at last.

King Boris walks into court where advisers are telling him that the army is getting closer spreading gas. People are dying. What we need to do, they say, is tell people to stay indoors, close the windows and the gas won’t get in. King Boris says that this will be a terrible restriction on people’s freedom.

The army get closer. More people dying from the gas.

Agitation groups say that the only defence is defence of all. Give everyone a gas mask now!

One of the groups digs up a report that the goverment did a few years ago on what would happen if an army invaded equipped with gas. It was called Operation Swan. The report found that the country wouldn’t be able to cope and big changes were necessary. The government did nothing.

A week goes by.

The army get closer.

King Boris says maybe the instruction that people stay inside is quite a good idea. He delivers a solemn message to the people. Stay indoors. It's 'Homedown'.

Back at the Red Lion, the regulars say it’s all made up. It’s not gas that the army is spreading. It’s fertiliser.

The country goes into ‘Homedown’. Everyone stays at home.
In the hospitals, the people coming in with gas poisoning is causing problems There isn’t the capacity to deal with them.

King Boris comes on TV to say that he smelled the gas, felt a bit ill, but he’s OK. He says that his hero is King Winston, who guides him in all these matters. He says, quoting King Winston (he think) ‘Never have so few, seen so many on the beaches...’