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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 # 46: Australian headlines May 2001

I recently had the misfortune to travel from London (England) to Preston by train - a distance of some 240 miles. The standard fare is £155 (about US $220). First class is much more. It is actually cheaper to fly to Spain and not much more to travel to Los Angeles. But sadly, I didn’t want to go to either of those places on this occasion. The normal travel time is just under three hours but since much of the track is falling apart, the trains have to creep along slower than George Stephenson’s Rocket (if he was alive today, he would be turning in his grave). Virgin Trains have produced a, ‘Special Timetable’. Now doesn’t that sound like a treat? This special timetable came out several months after they noticed that the trains weren’t actually sticking to the normal timetable. But of course in the first two days, they couldn’t even stick to that one either. So what used to be a journey of a little under three hours became three and three quarters under the special timetable and five hours in the real world. I am thinking of submitting the ‘Special Timetable’ for the Booker prize for fiction. The train was due to leave London at 18.33 but actually left at 19.00 (with lots of people standing) and arrived in Preston at 23.25. As there was plenty of time to make lifelong friends, rumours began to circulate that the train manager (guard) would be coming round with blankets, a mug of Horlicks and a teddy for each passenger and that he would tell us all a bedtime story such as the updated one about the boy who cried ‘wolf’, featuring Sir Richard Branson who assured us that service would be back to normal over and over again until the passengers didn’t believe a word. I have suggested that Virgin should distribute leaflets warning of the dangers of economy class syndrome on long haul train journeys. I await their response.

A friend recently had the misfortune of changing trains at Willesden Green tube station, and was disturbed to notice a locked door bearing the inscription

SS PRIVATE

At least it wasn't Golders Green.

Some time ago, a correspondent e-mailed me and asked the meaning of the letters, ‘stan’ at the end of the names many countries. Robert Beech very kindly gave me the following explanation:

"Stan" is the Arabic and Farsi (Persian or Irani) word for country or land, as in Uzbekistan, Pakistan and Eengleestan (the farsi word for "England") etc.

And from Dave Bunting:

The suffix "stan" means place or home as in Home of the Afghans......Afghanistan.

I also got a similar reply from Sameena Misbahuddin (not sure if it’s one ‘d’ or two).

From Margaret Etall...

I have looked this up in my Russian dictionary (because it is the end of so many countries, viz; Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, etc) and find the following definitions;

  1. figure, torso
  2. camp*
  3. mill

* I rather favour the middle one.

There is also stanitsa, which is a large Cossak village. A further connection might be with Latin stannum (meaning tin), and by extension a place where tin is mined.

One question still outstanding: has anyone come cross the word, stannion as in a stannion number?

The 'best' headlines from the Australia version of The Sun, last year:

  1. Something Went Wrong in Jet Crash, Experts Say

  2. Include Your Children When Baking Cookies

  3. Police Begin Campaign to Run Down Jay Walkers

  4. Drunks Get Nine Months in Violin Case

  5. Iraqi Head Seeks Arms

  6. Is There a Ring of Debris Around Uranus?

  7. Prostitutes Appeal to Pope

  8. Panda Mating Fails, Veterinarian Takes Over

  9. British Left Waffles on Falkland Islands

  10. Teacher Strike Idles Kids

  11. Clinton Wins Budget, More Lies Ahead

  12. Plane Too Close to the Ground Crash Probe Told

  13. Miners Refuse to Work After Death

  14. Juvenile Court to Try Shooting Defendant

  15. Stolen Painting Found by Tree

  16. Local High School Drop-outs Cut in Half

  17. War Dims Hope for Peace

  18. If Strike isn't Settled Quickly it May Last a While

  19. Couple Slain, Police Suspect Homicide

  20. Man Struck by Lightning Faces Battery Charge

  21. New Study of Obesity Looks for Larger Test Group

  22. Astronaut Takes Blame for Gas in Space

  23. Kids Make Nutritious Snacks

  24. Two Sisters Reunited After 18yrs in Checkout Counter

  25. Typhoon Ripped Through Cemetery, Hundreds Dead

  26. Cold Wave Linked to Temperatures

  27. Red Tape Holds Up New Bridges

  28. Hospitals are Sued by 7 Foot Doctors

  29. New Vaccine May Contain Rabies

Check in again at my desk soon!
stan@adweb.co.uk

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