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  • Hair affairs


    From the site Strange Maps comes this record from Die Zeit of the popularity of awful puns in the names of German hairdressing salons. The most popular is 'Haarmonie'. The others uphold that unfortunate line about the missing Germanic funny bone: Haareszeiten puns on Jahreszeiten - which means seasons - and Haargenau just means 'exactly' in the sense of 'to a hair'.
    Enertaining whimsy, including the menacing hairy outer darkness surrounding Germany, but not very effective map-making. I wanted the map to be dynamic, revealing photos of shop signs, much like the ones featured in the Hairdressers With Funny Names Pool on Flickr.

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    The predeliction of English salons for this kind of linguistic tomfoolery is so great that they made up a good part of a Guy Swillingham's Shop horror: the best of the worst in British shop names. If you can excuse a comment about one map which is made up of 'mere typography' Strange Maps has many other gems, including a description of  the Guardian's April 1977 feature on San Seriffe
  • Why Reading Matters

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    Not the place but the activity. Rita Carter presented a  one hour programme on BBC Four that could easily have been a series.

    This was a terrifically fudged programme. Rita Carter is an experienced science writer, with a special interest in the workings of the brain but she skirted some of the big issues, failed to come to a serious conclusion beyond confirming the validity of the programme’s big idea and let drop such solecisms as ‘the brain was designed’.

    None of these points were made by the programme:

    Some of the most interesting points were in the first half of the programme:

    • reading requires multiple brain zones, which have adapted from other functions and which continue to develop when you read
    • because of its difficult structure, reading English requires more mental effort than other languages – which may have developmental significance for the brain as a whole

    Some interesting ideas were floated but remained unsubstantiated:

    • computer games may require less empathetic involvement than reading (no hint at the wider social implication of a whole generation of adolescents now more likely to walk by on the other side)

    There was no attempt to pick up on the differences between reading a novel and reading the web, or between reading plain text or text with images, or even listening to a book being read and reading it.

    There wasn’t any sense of where UK Government policy is on the issue.

    But yes, reading books is a precious thing.

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