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Work in the media? Struggle with statistics? Stan's irreverent (and often irrelevant) review of the latest media reports, news and gossip may not help at all... Stan the Statistician

Stan # 21: More collective nouns 26 March 1999

First, the answers to the quiz on my last desktop about the collective nouns for groups of:

goats, ravens, birds (not flock), geese, hares, snipe, nightingales, clergymen, toads, crows, moles and peacocks.

In case you missed the original quiz (and if you did, I hope you've got a note from your mum) and want to have a go now, the answers are in reverse order at the bottom of the desktop.

The South Hants Weekly News appeals for coloured knitting wool which will be used for knitting clothes to send to Africa. "When newly-born babies are delivered," reveals the appeal, "they often have no clothes whatever."

Never trust a man who, when left alone in a room with a tea cosy, doesn't try it on.

Points to ponder:

Why do people often say, 'tuna fish' when they don't say, 'beef mammal' or 'chicken bird'?

Why is abbreviation such a long word?

Why isn't phonetic spelt the way is sounds?

Why do they call it a TV set when there is only one?

Those poor unfortunate souls working in the regional press in the UK (and others) may already know the derivation of the names of newspapers. But if this has slipped your mind (because your mind is slipping) here is the information which can be used to bore people at parties, in the office etc.

Magazine is from the Arabic word makhazin, a storehouse, and the earliest meaning of the word in English in the 1500s was a storehouse or warehouse. The French magasin (shop) is from the same root. A military store of gunpowder was also known as a magazine (and hence the magazine on a gun). Magazine as in Playboy magazine dates from the 1600s and was originally used in the sense of a storehouse of information. Indeed it is!

Bulletin is from the Latin bulla (sealed document). A papal bull (apparantly not meaning a load of nonsense) is from the same root as is a soldier's billet (the billet was originally the official order requiring the provision of accommodation). So, someone called John Billet, for example, was originally, John the Ticket.

In the 1300s a journal (from the same root as the modern French jour, day) was a book containing church services appropriate to different hours of the day. Later journals showed daily stages of a journey, or daily financial accounts. The modern journal, in the sense of a daily publication (or any periodical publication) dates from the 1700s.

A gazzetta was an old Italian coin and the word may have been transferred to the newspaper sold at the price of one gazzetta. Another theory is that gazette is derived from gazza, the Italian for magpie (as the newspaper contents were like the chattering of a magpie, a precursor of the chattering classes!). This has nothing to do with the football (or soccer as our American cousins call it) Gazza who is also known for chattering. However, he does not play for the Magpies (Newcastle United play in black and white striped shirts) but for Middlesborough, a few miles down the rosd. Shame. In the 1600s, a gazetteer was a journalist who wrote for a gazette. The modern meaning dates from 1693 when L. Echard published a geographical dictionary that he called a gazeteer.

The word tabloid was first used in 1884 to describe a medicinal tablet. By the early 1900s compressed news was called 'tabloid journalism'. Tabloid newspapers first appeared around the end of the First World War. Many now call the UK national tabloids 'red tops' as their masthead is usually red. However, not long ago, there was a plan aborted only at the 11th hour, to have the Mirror masthead in blue. Oddly, the Oxford English Dictionary definition of a broadsheet is still a large sheet of paper printed on one side only.

Answers to the collective noun quiz (in reverse order don't forget):

a muster, a labour, a murder, a knot, an assemblance, a watch, a walk, a husk, a gaggle, a volery, an unkindness, a trip. I mean, who on earth came up with that lot? And how many times in your life will you need to shout to impress your girlfriend/boyfriend, "Oh look, there's a walk of snipe&#quot;. How many times are you likely to see lots of snipe all together loitering about waiting to be shouted at? And would you recognise a snipe if you saw one - or even a walk of them?

It's at times like this that I bet the Americans are glad they don't speak English!

Check in again at my desk soon!

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