BBC News promoting unavailable content

So I was reading a Robert Peston blog post on the BBC News website when I spotted what looked like an interesting article being promoted in the sidebar:

Link in sidebar of Robert Peston's blog

Out of curiosity, I clicked on the link only to be confronted with this:

This programme is not available to listen again

First off, it was a radio broadcast rather than a words-and-pictures article or feature. Like many people I'm much more selective about what I listen to than what I read, simply because I find that audio needs a greater investment of time and concentration. In fact, I wouldn't have clicked on the link had it been clear that it led to a radio broadcast. So I felt slightly misled.

But much worse than that was the message that "this programme is not available to listen again". Why bother promoting it elsewhere on the site, then?

In fact, all the Beeb managed to do was take me away from a blog post that I was fairly interested in reading - in order to give me information on a radio programme that I had already missed, could not catch up on, and probably wouldn't have invested the time in listening to even if I was able.

Bacon, Bean et Garlic Soup

I was looking for a nice soup recipe just now when I stumbled across this on

Bacon bean et garlic soup
Yes, that's "Bacon, Bean et Garlic Soup".

So does the et lend a certain je ne sais quoi, or is it just ridiculous? Probably the latter, in my opinion - but it's a sad day when you can't have fun with language.

Wait a minute, I've just spotted another couple of examples on the same website:

More soups with et instead of and
What's going on here then? Am I missing something obvious?

MAN + Scania = Mania (or Scam)

A story we've been covering at work recently is the possible merger of truck manufacturers MAN and Scania.

One of our writers suggested that if they were to merge, the new company could be called 'Mania' - or 'Scam'...


The London Evening Standard today ran a feature on "multi-tasking beauty treatments" ('Party Season Pit Stops', page 36). One of the crossheads was rather ambiguous:


I'm a man, and the only thing I'm likely to pick up in the Post Office is a book of stamps.

Granted, putting the crosshead in caps (a trap that the online version avoids) doesn't help, but couldn't the Standard have run with 'post-work' or 'after-office' instead?

Access was denied after it has been already asserted

So I just tried to log into a certain program and got this error message:

Hitbox error message
"Access was denied after it has been already asserted." What does this mean? I can't log in because I've already logged in?

And surely the tenses are wrong too. Access was asserted first, and then denied, so "Access was denied after it was asserted" would make more sense. Or perhaps "Access has been denied after already having been asserted".

I'm still not sure what it means, though.

I'm planing a Barking facility

A couple of snippets of raw copy for you today, chosen for the interesting images they bring to mind.

First, a simple typo:

The proposed regional distribution centre is currently at the planing stage, but Morrisons is confident that the site, just off the M5, will be operational by mid-2011.

Is the distribution centre made of wood?

And then there's this:

Since January, the company has opened a 273,000ft2 Barking facility, invested in electronic proof-of-delivery technology and won several significant contracts.

A doggone Barking facility! I think that "facility in Barking, London" would be clearer...

Scraper + scoop + ladle = scrudle

On Friday, Metro ran a story about the Scrudle, a plastic device which is "said to allow cooks to seamlessly scoop up equal amounts of ingredients without any spillages".

It added:

Scrudle, which rhymes with strudel and is a mixture of the words scraper and ladle, was the brainchild of Margaret O'Callaghan.

A mixture of the words scraper and ladle? Surely that would be 'scradle' (or 'scraple') rather than 'scrudle'? So was there a third word contributing to the name - and if so, what? 'Stew'? 'Ooh'?

Fortunately the Mail Online (also published by Associated Newspapers) had the answer:

Described as a cross between a scraper, a scoop and a ladle (hence its name, a hybrid of the three), the Scrudle was invented by middle class housewife Margaret O'Callaghan, 65, at her suburban home.

Incidentally, it's surprising just how much media attention the scrudle has received in the UK. A quick search uncovered the following (in order of Google ranking, from highest to lowest):

I love the way the threw in 'spatula'... as if three implements weren't enough.

Why is the TV show 'SMart' called 'SMart'?

There's a long-running BBC TV show called SMart. It's about art and it's aimed at children. So why the name 'SMart'?

Well, obviously, the word 'smart' contains within it the word 'art'. So far, so good. It's just that capital 'M' that bugs me.

I would have gone for 'SmArt'. I can also see the argument for 'SmART' - or even just 'Smart'. But 'SMart'?

Perhaps 'SMart' stands for 'Super Magic Art' or something similar. Wait a minute, though, that would give us 'SMArt'...

So many alternatives!

The city of Derby, Iowa: population 131

The Wikipedia page on Derby, Iowa begins:

Derby is a city in Lucas County, Iowa, United States. The population was 131 at the 2000 census.

A city with 131 inhabitants! That made me laugh. Even St David's, the UK's smallest city, has a population of 1,800 (ish).

But then I dug around on Wikipedia a little more and discovered this: "In Oregon, Kansas, Kentucky, North Dakota, Minnesota, and Iowa, all incorporated municipalities are cities."

So that explains it.

'No More Big Gaps'

No More Big GapsThe company behind the adhesive 'No More Nails', UniBond, also makes a foam filler called 'No More Big Gaps'. What a great name.

However while 'No More Nails' is a substitute for nails (in certain circumstances), 'No More Big Gaps' is not a substitute for big gaps.

Looking at it another way, 'No More Big Gaps' eliminates big gaps, but 'No More Nails' does not eliminate nails. It only eliminates the need for nails.

EastEnders and the 'Beale-L-T'

It looks like the Eastenders EastEnders crew has been having some fun with language.

The cafe in the BBC soap opera is owned by a character called Ian Beale. And instead of the traditional BLT, Ian's cafe offers a 'Beale-L-T'.

I've even managed to get a screengrab from the BBC's iPlayer as evidence:

Beale L-T

The Beale-L-T seems to include a burger, but I can't quite read that first word in brackets. Anyone?

Art criticism from Metro

According to Metro, a paper not renowned for its understatement, this portrait of Gordon Brown's wife Sarah "would struggle to make it on to the fridge door if it was painted by a three-year old".

Portrait of Sarah BrownI'm fairly confident that any three-year-old producing art like this would be acclaimed a genius.

(The portrait is taken from Carla Bruni's website, and was not created by a toddler.)

'On a scale of 1 to 10 where 0 is poor'

I've been on a training course called 'Managing High-Performing Teams' for the past couple of days. I've enjoyed it, and maybe I'll write some more about it tomorrow, but for now I just want to share this extract from the course materials:

Scaling: On a scale of 1 to 10 where 0 is poor and 10 is world class, where would you put performance today?

Is it possible to have 0 in a scale of 1 to 10? Or is it just that I'm not allowed to choose 'poor' as my answer?

Google Wave, turbulence and Serenity

So I'm all signed up with Google Wave after wangling an invitation out of one of my senior colleagues. It's fun to play with but I'm getting a bit tired of seeing this error message:

Google Wave error message about turbulence and exploding
Apparently the wording is based on a quote from the Joss Whedon sci-fi movie Serenity (which I haven't seen).

If you're on Google Wave too, you can wave to me at

Update 23/11/2009: And here's another Google Wave error message I've encountered, again inspired by Serenity (apparently):

Everything's shiny Google Wave error message

Headlines: 'Major massacres'

On Friday, I walked past a folded, discarded copy of Metro and caught the first deck of its two-deck front page headline. It read: "Major massacres".

This left me wondering what massacres it was referring to, and when exactly a massacre became a "major" massacre.

Later, I picked up a copy of Metro for myself and saw the full headline. It was:

Major massacres
11 at top US base


How long ago is 'a long time ago'?

How long ago is 'a long time ago'? The answer, my friends, is 2006 - at least according to my PC.

I've been uploading some video files to our publication's YouTube account. The videos are show reports dating from 2008, 2007 and 2006 - here's the full list:

So either 2006 is 'a long time ago' or my PC just can't count up to three...

'Nick Griffin, you f****** w*****'

Replacing swear words in a news story with a string of asterisks may protect the sensibilities of easily offended readers but it doesn't always aid understanding. For example, Metro's front page lead today begins:

British National Party leader Nick Griffin found himself in the centre of a racism court case today - in which he claimed to be the victim.

The far-right leader and North West MEP alleged he was racially abused by a driver who made threatening 'gun gestures' towards him and called him a white 'b*****d'.

But, while defendant Taquir Khalid admitted being at the scene of the incident, he insisted he shouted only 'Nick Griffin, you f****** w*****' and flicked a V-sign.

It's that final asterisked word that caused me problems. When I first read the paragraph I took it to mean that Khalid had called Griffin a 'whitie' - after all, it's an offensive term that begins with 'w', has six letters, and ties into the story's theme of racial abuse.

Of course, calling someone a 'whitie' would be as as racist as (or possibly even more racist than) calling someone a 'white b*****d', so admitting to it wouldn't be much of a defence against a charge of racial abuse.

Within a few seconds my brain had done the processing and come up with 'wanker' instead.

Incidentally, if Metro can give the first and last letter for 'b*****d', why can't it do the same for other swear words?

Grammar Girl: Swear Words in Text

Spelling: 'Sameday disptach'

At the weekend I went to order a particular product from the Amazon website. But I hit a problem: the product in question was available from a number of sellers, all of whom had almost identical prices, ratings and returns policies. I'd never used - or even heard of - any of the sellers before either. How to choose?

Well, the seller that was advertising its "sameday disptach" service ruled itself out of the running:

Company offering 'sameday disptach'
After all, if it can't spare the effort to spell correctly, how can I be confident that it will spare the effort to send me the right product, on time and in good condition? It's like the Panasonic logo says: "Everything matters".

Even the best finishers...

Frank Lampard Change 4 Life advertFootballer Frank Lampard recently appeared in an anti-obesity advert (pictured) with the caption "Even the best finishers need someone to start them off".

At a party yesterday, someone pointed out to me that this caption could be taken as rather rude. And yes, I believe it could.

Any other unintentionally smutty ads out there?