Friday 28 April 2006

English is no piece of cake

Anybody learning the English language has my sympathy. Let’s think about the word “piece” which means a portion or part. Except “A piece of cake” might mean either a section of a cake, or trivial, facile. “A piece of piss” only means trivial, never a quantity of urine. “A piece of me” seems to means an argument or fight with me, while “a piece of my mind” means a tirade or scalding. “A piece of furniture” doesn’t mean a portion or part, but a complete item of furniture. “A piece of the action” means a share of the profit and associated risk. “A piece of shit” has nothing to do with faeces and everything to do with inferior quality. The situation is no simpler when we talk about a “piece” by itself, it means a gun, except when it means a sculpture or a painting.

Tuesday 10 January 2006

Knitting vs Rock and Roll

Throughout 2005 the celebrity magazines and lifestyle supplements have been telling us that knitting is the new rock and roll. What nobody seems to have noticed is that rock and roll has slowly become the new knitting. Today  rock is as safe and acceptable a hobby as knitting, it's done mostly at home by small polite groups of friends. There are lessons and clubs, mothers drop children at after-school rock drumming lessons, the youth go to welcoming and well organized practice-rooms while bands covering the Rolling Stones or The Who play fetes and cruise ships.

Once upon a time rock and roll was dangerous and exciting, aggressive, antisocial, and hated. When people first heard Hendrix's guitar they though it was unlistenable. Once when The Doors  performed "The End" there was a riot and the concert had to be closed down by police. Rock music (or heavy metal, or punk, or grunge - pick a decade) used to be a rallying point for the outcasts, the dispossessed, the angry and neglected youth. When a real band was playing the police were on standby, parents were worried.

Forget knitting, it looks more like inner-city gun crime is the new rock and roll.