Afternoon tea – More on the language of tea

Dear readers and followers,

My anniversary post on the tea etiquette needed a visual explanation, and here it is, as a belated Christmas post. First of all, let’s Dame Maggie Smith say what all tea drinkers often think:

 

Muriel: I don’t care about any of that. Listen and learn, son. Tea is a herb that’s been dried out so to bring it back to life, you have to infuse it in boiling water. That is boiling water and everywhere I’ve been in this country, they slap down a cup of tepid nonsense, you know, with the tea bag lying beside it, which means I’ve got to go through the ridiculous business of dunking it in the lukewarm piss waiting for the slightest change of colour to occur. And at my age, I haven’t got the time.
Sonny: This is what I’m talking about.

Now, it may seem trivial to those who don’t drink tea, but it is not. In one of my recent trips, I flew with Alitalia; many things can be said of it, but I thought we could still rely on this company on service. I was being naïve, we cannot. Their idea of a sandwich is poor to say the least, but my biggest mistake was to ask for a cup of tea, because their idea is, exactly as Muriel sais, “lukewarm piss.” More to that, they didn’t even have the decency of giving the bag on a side, they apparently used the one bag for a whole kettle, obtaining a tepid amber water with no flavour of tea at all. So, to those who keep asking the same question every time, no, I don’t want my tea “undrinkably hot like you do it,” I want my tea properly done!

Switching to more interesting matters, just before Christmas I treated myself and my friend, who kindly stars in some pictures, to an afternoon tea to complete what started on our blog anniversary. Once again, this is not strictly related to languages and translation, but it definitely is part of the culture of the country that is currently my home, and it has a language in itself. I will leave you with a little video of the pictures I took and that prove what I described in the previous post.

(Music by Bensound)

As you can see, in the video we use tea strainers, because we have a teapot with the loose leaves inside. Of course, that is the way to do it. If instead you are going for an infuser, as I usually do for my cup of tea, you may want to carefully consider what better suits you. There are countless types, many extremely cute or funny, but do not forget that, in the end, they have the purpose of infusing your tea, therefore they need to allow the leaves to grow. Silicone is modern and colourful, but I personally do not like any crockery made of plastic of any kind, it is greasy to touch. Here you have pictures of three of the main kinds of infusers, and I have all of them, here in London or in Sardinia:

Infusers

Number 3 is my favourite, it has the perfect size for a mug; it is easy to fill, empty, and clean without having to get dirty, and it allows you to also stir the tea and the milk as if it were a teaspoon (yes, I usually leave it in infusion and pour the milk, shame on me!) Number 1 usually has too big holes and too much of the tea end up in the cup, and you also have to have tea pouring through your fingers while you unscrew and empty it, which I find extremely annoying. Number 2 is a good compromise if you like your infuser to disappear in the cup but without having your cup full of leaves and without having to have a tea bath for your fingers afterwards. Now that I went home for the festive season, my best friend received me with this cutie, and I had to try it at least:

IMG_2399

Now, it is almost time to have a tea again, will you join me? Just, don’t forget: Keep being naughty, Knotty surely will!!!

Black Friday, Green Monday, and the rest of the rainbow of shopping madness

Dear readers and followers,

December has just started, Christmas is still quite far away, but we have already had our dose of mad shopping and there is plenty more to come, and they have names that make you lose your wish to enter a shop ever again. Do you know when the special days dedicated to offers and shopping are and what they are called. Would you like to know so you can avoid them because people shopping seriously annoy you? Welcome to my world, let us see them briefly. If you are about my age, you will remember when the sales were price reductions starting the day after the Epiphany, that is 7 January, and lasting until the end of February to start again in July for other two months. It does not work like that anymore, the beginning of the new millennium brought constant sales with special days in which the products are incredibly cheap.

The most known may be Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. In the States (but now also in Europe, where it does not make any sense because we do not celebrate Thanksgiving,) the fourth Thursday of November is Thanksgiving; the day after marks the beginning of the Christmas shopping and, despite the fact that is not an official holiday, it is a day off work for several working categories in some states, which makes it possible to have a long weekend of shopping right before December starts. The name Black Friday seems to mean that the shop would finally start making profit and their accounts would switch from red to black. We are recently expanding the event to the whole weekend and more.

Cyber Monday is the Monday after the Black Friday weekend and is dedicated to online shopping since ten years. It was created by Shop.org, while eBay created Green Monday, usually the second Monday of December but, in general, at least ten days before Christmas.

Free Shipping Day is the third Monday of December and was created some years after the previous ones with the objective of expanding the online shopping season. It is also typically American because it is based on free shipping in continental US, but it is now expanding very fast.

Super Saturday, also called Panic Saturday, is the last Saturday before Christmas and has, once again, been created to push Christmas sales when time is almost over. Another horrible day is Boxing Day, the day after Christmas in which people queue outside the shopping centres starting in the first hours of the morning, that is when is still night, just to have some discounts. To avoid that sad situation, now the sales last the whole week, not only on 26, but the nonsensical queues don’t seem to have changed much. The name of Boxing day comes from the boxes that the workers would receive from their employers the day after Christmas.

Do you think you have heard everything? Well, there is also Singles’ Day. Created in 1993, the 11 November to be precise, is also called Bachelors’ Day and started in China, not in the US, for once, to celebrate the pride of young Chinese people to be single. The date was chosen because 11/11 reminds of individuals standing alone; in fact, the Chinese name translates as “bare sticks holiday.” Started as a festival, this day is now a huge day of online shopping so, maybe, this young people may be proud, but they do not struck me as happy in being single!

Do you think all hope is lost in our consumeristic society? I would say yes, but we still pretend we care and in 2012 92nd Street Y and the United Nations Foundation created Giving Tuesday as a response to consumerism. In this day, the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, money is raised to help selected charities. It seems just another empty day to show the world that we care as if donations and charitable work could be worth more if done in that special day despite the rest of the year wasting and spending, instead of doing a simple, silent good action whenever we feel like, but then, this is just me being cynic, you know me. Moralism is not the point of this post, the aim is to clarify all the names that we hear out there and push us to buy, or they try at least. I hope you have a clearer idea now.

Don’t forget: Keep being naughty, Knotty surely will!!!

The tea etiquette – An anniversary post

Dear readers and followers,

My beloved creature, Une belle infidèle!, is three years old, and I thought that what better way to celebrate it than with a proper Afternoon tea? You all know that I am based in London, but that is not all, I am a huge tea lover, and long before moving here my whole being would cringe at the sight of tea served in Italy. Let us then plunge into the foreign traditions and learn how to serve a proper Afternoon tea because, after all, if Italians do not want foreigners to teach us how to cook pasta, why should we assume we know more than the Britons when it comes to tea?

First of all, Tea O’Clock is 4 pm, not 5 as we think in Italy. Of course, with the time difference it becomes 5 for us, but not in Albion. To avoid problems, nonetheless, be assured that an Afternoon Tea is acceptable from 3 to 5 o’clock, 2 to 6 according to some people. Its purpose was to calm the stomach requests between lunch and dinner. If you are familiar with Downton Abbey, you will have seen the tea served in the library on small tables; for that reason, it may be called “small tea.” The now widespread name of “high tea” seems to be wrong and to recall the lower classes; the servants, in fact, would have their tea after the family, as we always see in the series, and they would have it on a high table, hence the high in the name.

Small tea

High tea

What is going to accompany the tea?

That may depend: Sandwiches, scones, cakes, or all the above. Two things seem to be a must: Scones should always be there and cupcakes should never be there! If all the food is included, the order should be sandwiches first, then scones, and cakes at the end. The sandwiches have a long tradition also in literature, as we will see soon, but some aspects must be clearly stated here: no crust, please (as if that needs any explanation;) no huge portions; small triangles, rectangles, or squares (especially if the Royal family is invited.) Why so much talking of cucumber sandwiches everywhere? Because they became the favourite of the Victorian aristocracy who could afford to have a meal with low nutritional value. Oscar Wilde perfectly depicted the emptiness of that period in The importance of being Earnest where he repeatedly named the cucumber sandwiches as the ones especially prepared for Lady Blacknell, the one that represents the aristocracy and the nonsensical social rules of that period. Here you have two extracts of Act I of the play from the web:

ALGERNON   I really don’t see anything romantic in proposing. It is very romantic to be in love. But there is nothing romantic about a definite proposal. Why, one may be accepted. One usually is, I believe. Then the excitement is all over. The very essence of romance is uncertainty. If ever I get married, I’ll certainly try to forget the fact.

JACK  I have no doubt about that, dear Algy. The Divorce Court was specially invented for people whose memories are so curiously constituted.

ALGERNON   Oh! there is no use speculating on that subject. Divorces are made in Heaven –

[JACK puts out his hand to take a sandwich. ALGERNON at once interferes.]

Please don’t touch the cucumber sandwiches. They are ordered specially for Aunt Augusta.

[Takes one and eats it].

JACK  Well, you have been eating them all the time.

ALGERNON   That is quite a different matter. She is my aunt.

[Takes plate from below.]

Have some bread and butter. The bread and butter is for Gwendolen. Gwendolen is devoted to bread and butter.

JACK  [Advancing to table and helping himself.]

And very good bread and butter it is too.

ALGERNON   Well, my dear fellow, you need not eat as if you were going to eat it all. You behave as if you were married to her already. You are not married to her already, and I don’t think you ever will be.

JACK  Why on earth do you say that?

ALGERNON   Well, in the first place girls never marry the men they flirt with. Girls don’t think it right.

JACK  Oh, that is nonsense!

ALGERNON   It isn’t. It is a great truth. It accounts for the extraordinary number of bachelors that one sees all over the place. In the second place, I don’t give my consent.

JACK  Your consent!

ALGERNON   My dear fellow, Gwendolen is my first cousin. And before I allow you to marry her, you will have to clear up the whole question of Cecily.

[Rings bell.]

JACK  Cecily! What on earth do you mean? What do you mean, Algy, by Cecily! I don’t know any one of the name of Cecily.

***

LADY BRACKNELL   I’m sorry if we are a little late, Algernon, but I was obliged to call on dear Lady Harbury. I hadn’t been there since her poor husband’s death. I never saw a woman so altered; she looks quite twenty years younger. And now I’ll have a cup of tea, and one of those nice cucumber sandwiches you promised me.

ALGERNON   Certainly, Aunt Augusta.

[Goes over to tea-table.]

LADY BRACKNELL   Won’t you come and sit here, Gwendolen?

GWENDOLEN           Thanks, mamma, I’m quite comfortable where I am.

ALGERNON   [Picking up empty plate in horror.]

Good heavens! Lane! Why are there no cucumber sandwiches? I ordered them specially.

LANE  [Gravely.]

There were no cucumbers in the market this morning, sir. I went down twice.

ALGERNON   No cucumbers!

LANE  No, sir. Not even for ready money.

ALGERNON   That will do, Lane, thank you.

LANE  Thank you, sir.

[LANE Goes out.]

ALGERNON   I am greatly distressed, Aunt Augusta, about there being no cucumbers, not even for ready money.

LADY BRACKNELL   It really makes no matter, Algernon. I had some crumpets with Lady Harbury, who seems to me to be living entirely for pleasure now.

ALGERNON   I hear her hair has turned quite gold from grief.

LADY BRACKNELL   It certainly has changed its colour. From what cause I, of course, cannot say.

[ALGERNON crosses and hands tea.]

***

Going back to the food of the Afternoon Tea, the scones are served with cream and preserves, usually strawberry jam; from this, comes the other name of the Afternoon tea, which is Cream Tea. There is a lot of talking about how to eat the scones, but it usually is a matter of preferences with some absolute dont’s: The scones can be cut in half with a knife but it is not the best choice; if it is fresh and of good quality, a scone should easily break in the middle, and that is preferable; you can cut little pieces and top them with cream and jam, or cover the whole half, but do not put the two halves back together after, this is not the time for sandwiches anymore!

Cream or jam, what goes first?

It is your choice and the only suggestions depend on whether you follow what they say in Cornwall or Devonshire: Cornish people say that jam goes first, while Devonians prefer their clotted cream to melt on the warm scone and top it with jam. I had my first proper Cream Tea in Devonshire and I still put the jam first because I prefer the cream to keep it original texture. Actually, I had it in Victoria, Australia, before, but that is a shameful stain in my career; I didn’t know the rituals of tea and I fell for the call of cream even if that was scheduled at 11 am (I have so much more to tell about that, but that calls for a whole new post!) So far, we have talked about finger food, definitely no cutlery for the sandwiches and just a knife to spread the cream and jam for the scones. About the cakes, there is no specific selection, but they should be small, easy to eat with the fingers or a small fork. I have already said NO CUPCAKES, although muffins were included in the old days. One thing is sure: Do not plunge your food into the tea! I will share this image that I have taken from Bettys’ website not because I know the place but because it seems to me to properly represent the food of an afternoon tea:

Afternoon

Let’s now talk about the centre of this post: The tea. We live in a world in which even common sense seems to be lost in drinking tea. Tea is an infusion, therefore its strength comes from the length of time that the leaves are left in infusion, fairly obvious! That is what makes it different from coffee, which is brewed with hot water but not left in infusion; the strength of coffee comes from different factors (I am talking here about an espresso, because then the addition of milk vary strength and flavour) such as the amount of coffee, the coarseness of the powder, the pressing of the powder, and so on. I am not a coffee lover, I am not even a coffee drinker, but I have been trained as a barista, therefore I know some stuff about coffee as well, unfortunately. So, for a coffee you put as many shots of coffee as you need it strong, but do not forget that the caffeine comes out at the end, therefore, to stop the machine before its time means that you may be cutting on caffeine. Tea is different, to make tea stronger, you leave it in infusion longer, you do not put two teabags in a cup, that is a disgrace that I have seen in Starbucks and that has no description. Anyway, we are not talking about tea bags now. The time of infusion depends on the type of tea and on your taste, but it usually ranges between 3 and 6 minutes; usually, loose leaves are more delicate. There are several infusers, but you should always remember to leave space for the leaves to expand with the water. It is time for some vital questions now:

Milk yes or no? Milk first or after?

Milk yes I would say, but it also depends on the tea. Milk goes well with most black teas, although some people prefer citrus-flavoured teas without milk. If you like lemon, apart from receiving a frowned look from me (I can eat lemons, but I don’t like lemon-flavoured things,) you may take some aspects into consideration: Black teas go well with lemon as well, so they say, but not blends such as Earl Grey and Lady Grey, which already have citric in it and you would alter the taste; never pour the tea on top of the slice of lemon, again for the same reason; never squeeze the lemon in the tea, the flavour and the essential oils should release while infusing; the slices should be thin, the cloves should stay in, and the slice should not go on the saucer, neither before nor after going into the cup.

Milk after. Tea should always be the first thing in the cup to allow you to appreciate the strength and decide on the amount of milk. The old story of milk going in first to avoid cracking the cup is not completely correct. China cups would not crack with hot tea, that would only happen to lower quality crockery in the old days, but it is unlikely now that almost all the kitchenware is microwave and dishwasher safe. Definitely never milk before with take-away tea, that is basically watery milk with a tea bag inside and the blend will not infuse correctly or at all; personal advice, especially in a take-away cup, always take the milk separately.

If you like sugar, preferably cubes to avoid the little crumbles that fall from a teaspoon. Also, leave the cube to dissolve and then stir. In any case, do not forget that sugar modifies the taste of the beverage and it is not always good for your body. As with other beverages, you may use honey to sweeten your tea, but that is an absolute no for me. Not only I hate honey, but its flavour is too strong and specific and it would adulterate the tea killing the taste completely, it is healthier than sugar, but you will end up not drinking tea that doesn’t taste like tea anymore.

How to stir?

Never circular motions. The handle of your cup should be at four, imagining the cup in front of you as a clock, the teaspoon inside should stay at six and the motion should be 6-12, 6-12, never banging the sides of the cup. When finished stirring, a gentle flick of the teaspoon on top of the cup and the spoon goes on the saucer behind (never in front) of the cup, with the handle also at four o’clock as for the cup. Do not leave the teaspoon in the cup!

How to hold the cup and sip the tea?

If standing, hold the saucer in the palm of one hand and raise the cup with the other; if sitting, the saucer stays on the table. The index finger goes in the handle and the thumb closes the grip, the middle finger goes under the handle to secure the grip, and the rest of the fingers follow the curve. Do not raise the little finger!

Now, some extra details to make you a perfect host: For a strong tea, fill 3/4 of the cup with tea to leave space for the milk and avoid spilling; for a weak tea, pour half cup to also allow space for more hot water.

That said, when at home, I drink my tea very strong, I leave the infuser in the cup until I finish the tea, and I have it in a huge Tigger mug. Rules are there to be broken, but you need to know them if you want to break them!

Tigger

If you want to know more about tea etiquette, here are some links I used to inspire this post apart from my personal knowledge: 1, 2, 3, and 4; you could also try one of the several menus offered by tea rooms and hotels; some of them are not too adulterate to please tourists and they also offer a written decalogue of what is socially acceptable. Café Royal in London, the place where Oscar Wilde loved to have his tea and to spend his evenings, also offers an afternoon tea in the room dedicated to the great writer. If you are visiting London and want to have a different experience, you could try some of the peculiar ideas offered by the city: The Afternoon Tea bus tour is a way to combine a relaxed tourist tour with a warm cup, and Time Out  also offers some unconventional menus and places that you may be interested in. Whatever your plans are, do not forget that the tea etiquette also includes a dress code that has not been treated here because it is often not required anymore due to the huge number of tourists that want to have this experience, but if you want to book an afternoon tea in a venue, you may also want to check the dress code to avoid being left outside.

Funny fact: When Queen Elizabeth visited Rome in 2000, the Italian press made a big deal about sharing a huge amount of gossip (as usual in Italy when the Windsor family is concerned,) and it was said that the monarch brought her own teapot because she would never travel without it and risk to jeopardise her tea routine. There is nonetheless no official information about that.

Now, before you enjoy your tea, don’t forget: keep being naughty, Knotty surely will!!! Cheers to Une belle infidèle!

Happy World Voice Day, interpreters!

WVD 2015

L’origine dei modi di dire: in odore di santità

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Ci sono frasi che abbiamo sempre usato, ma di cui non conosciamo l’origine esatta. In molti casi questo può poi portare a errori d’uso e a trasformazioni senza senso. Qualche giorno fa, mi è capitato di sentire una giornalista parlare di un incidente probabilmente causato dalla mafia e usare la frase “in odore di mafia”. La cosa mi ha disturbato immediatamente, perché era ovvio che fosse una storpiatura del ben conosciuto “in odore di santità”, ma un’adattazione senza senso se si pensa all’origine di quest’espressione.

Due sono le possibili spiegazioni sull’origine della frase, usata per indicare la vicinanza alla santità di alcune persone. La prima, si riferisce al fatto che, a volte, i cadaveri emanano un delicato profumo per qualche ora, più a lungo in casi rari; questo, così come le stigmate profumate di alcuni santi, sarebbe ritenuto un indizio di santità benché non una prova sufficiente per la canonizzazione. La seconda, quella che più mi convince per via delle usanze medievali da cui tanti modi di dire hanno preso spunto, si rifà all’abitudine dei religiosi di andare in giro accompagnati da chierichetti che agitavano turiboli carichi di incenso. Questo si faceva in parte per annunciare l’arrivo del prelato, ma soprattutto per coprire la puzza dovuta alla scarsa igiene che caratterizzava chiunque in quei tempi. D’altronde, quello è anche il motivo della presenza del maestoso Botafumeiro a Santiago de Compostela, uno strumento che doveva coprire l’odore dei pellegrini che, per settimane, avevano viaggiato a piedi e si erano alloggiati dove meglio potevano prima di raggiungere la cattedrale.

Santiago_Catedral_Botafumeiro
Tenuto conto di queste ragioni, cosa può significare l’odore di mafia? Dobbiamo immaginarci i giovani mafiosi spargendo polvere da sparo per annunciare l’arrivo del boss?

Until next and… don’t forget to keep being naughty, Knotty surely will!!!

Colours and emotions in languages

Dear readers and followers,

Waiting for my video about Italian vocabulary this weekend, I am here with this post about the vision of colours in languages. We know that colours are important, they are part of how we perceive things. That is why brands research the market and invest so much when choosing the colour of their logo. But that is not all, everything we experience, also the food, reaches our eyes first, and an inviting appearance is important when serving food, or when selling any product.

Colours influence our choices, but what are the ideas associated to them in some of the languages we speak? Are they similar or do they depend on the culture of each country? Let’s see some examples.

images

Red is often associated with love and passion, with suffering, or with fury. All these things are in some way related to blood: our heart and blood are red, hence the love, but also the suffering and martyrdom; also, when we are angry there is an increase in blood pressure and our face becomes red with fury. In English we say “to see red” because, supposedly, the bull attacks when he sees the red cloak, but is actually not true. First of all, bulls are colour blind, and what makes them angry (apart from all the hitting him with spears and swords, which would be enough anyway) is the moving of the cape, which is red only in the end. In Italian, similarly, we can say that we are red with rage: essere rossi di rabbia.

Green is used for different things: ecology, money, experience, envy, etc. In English, apart from a person interested in the environment, a green person is someone with no experience or someone who is jealous. In Italian, green, as red, is used for indicating rage, and we say essere verde dalla rabbia, to be green with anger. Rage and jealousy are supposed to be green probably because they were thought to originate from the liver, and the bile is green. In Italian, though, other meanings are possible: to be on green, essere al verde, is to have no money; there are two possible explanations for that: the first one says that, although green is the colour of money, it is also the colour of the tables of casinos, and when one loses all the money, one only sees the green cloth; according to the second theory, poor people could not buy too many candles and had to use them until the bottom, which was marked in green. To conclude, in Spanish an man is called an old green, un viejo verde, when he is a pervert, especially with young girls.

Yellow is another colour used to symbolise jealousy because, as it is the case with the green, too much bile production makes our skin yellowish. Yellow being the colour of jealousy is the reason why it is said that it is not nice to give yellow roses. In Italy, though, yellow is also the colour of mystery, and mystery books and films are called libri e film gialli, yellow books and films. The reason for that is the colour of the cover the editor Mondadori chose for the first series of mystery books. From that comes also the sad but understandable translation of Murder, she wrote as La signora in giallo, the lady in yellow.

White symbolises purity and birth, while black is the colour of mourning and death. For this reason, even if black is elegant, the women in the royal family, and Queen Elizabeth in particular, never wear black apart from when they mourn. In Japan, on the contrary, white is the colour of grief. In English, to be in black means to be in credit, and from there the name of Black Friday for the day after Thanksgiving, because on that day the shops start gaining money. Generally, though, black is associated with negativity, and if in Italian we talk of a black Friday, un venerdì nero, we mean a negative day for the stock market.

Purple, my favourite colour, is believed to bring bad luck in theatres, and it is avoided on stage. It is also the colour English uses to express rage, as in to be purple with rage.

Blue is often also associated with honesty, so a blue eyed person is one who can do no wrong, but in English it is also the colour of a film with explicit sexual content, while that in Italian, mainly in the case of a porn film, is a red light one, un film a luci rosse. While in Italian, blue is often associated with calm, in English to be blue is also to be sad.

Do you have more sayings with colours, or do you know different ideas expressed by them in your mother tongue? Feel free to share them with us.

Until next and… keep being naughty, Knotty surely will!!!

Silent Night, languages and community on Christmas Day

Dear readers and followers,

I had no plans to publish anything today, my Christmas post has been published yesterday, and that was Knotty’s Christmas present for you all. Despite all that, here I am again today, to share a very touching moment that I was lucky enough to witness on this Christmas day.

I am spending Christmas with friends, and we went to church near my friend’s house. The whole function was nothing different from any other one, but the closing moment was a celebration of the Christmas spirit through languages. The priest has sang Silent Night also interpreting it in BSL. Here I leave you a video from YouTube of a version that I just found and that will give you shivers for its beauty:

Silent night

It is a wonderful example, and has been a touching moment of languages crossing barriers and bringing people together. Exactly like it happened in 1914, as Queen Elizabeth II reminded us today in her Christmas speech:

“On that chilly Christmas Eve in 1914, many of the German forces sang Silent night, its haunting melody inching across the line. That carol is still much loved today, a legacy of the Christmas truce, and a reminder to us all that even in the unlikeliest of places, hope can be found.”

Merry Christmas! Until next, and… keep being naughty, Knotty surely will!!!

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To kill 6 kilos with one stone

I always struggle when I hear someone talking about stones, inches, pounds and all those units of measurement that are used in the most of the countries that were part of the British empire, and that are called Imperial system for that reason, opposed to the SI, or International System of Units. I even went through 3 terrifying seconds at JFK airport when my suitcase, which was supposed to be under 23 kg, went on the scale and had a weight of 47! My heart literally bumped, especially thinking that I didn’t buy any souvenirs, and that it was not even reaching 22 kg before I added that wonderful Nivea moisturising lotion that was my first purchase in American soil. Those seemed some of the longest 3 seconds of my life, until I realised that the expressionless, unfriendly face of the guy at the desk meant that I was safe from having to sell a kidney to pay the overweight, and that those numbers meant pounds.

The only easy conversion for me is km<>miles, because one mile is around 1.6 km, and that is easy to do. Almost all the English speaking countries kept the imperial system even after abandoning the empire. The one that I know for sure has switched to the SI is Australia, and I remember it because the really funny tour guide, who drove us to the Blue Mountains and first introduced me to the Australian culture on site, said to us: “Between 1970 and 1988 we had a transition from one system to the other, then we just kept the metric system, so everyone else in the world could understand us. About the driving, though, we kept the British one, because it is makes more sense. Don’t forget that Europeans drive on the right side, but we drive on the correct side!” Yes, he quoted the right dates, but I had to look them up right now! Also, he expressed is not too friendly opinion about American, who didn’t get one right, choosing the European driving side, and the imperial system of units!

Anyway, tired of reading of people who lost a stone and of recipes in ounces, when not in cups, I decided to look up some information online and to do a quick post for all of you. If you are thinking that you can achieve the same result with the conversion websites, you are also right.

Let’s start with weight:

Kilograms (kg) Ounces (oz) Pounds (lb) Stones (st)
1 35.27396195 2.204622622 0.1574730444

 

1oz 28.350 g
1 lb 0.45359237 kg
1st 6 kg 350.29 g

Now length:

Metres (m) Inches (in) Feet (ft) Yards (yd) Miles (mi)
1 39.3700787402 3.28083989501 1.09361329834 0.000621371192237

 

1 in 0.0254 m
1 ft 0.3048 m
1 yd 0.9144 m
1 mi 1609.344 m

Related to these ones are the units to measure the area:

Hectares (ha) Square metres (m2) Acres (ac)
1 10000 2 ac 20519 ft²

 

1 ac 0 ha 4046.9 m²

Then temperatures:

In this case, there is an equation that we learn when we are young and innocent, and that we then forget because it has no space in the little cupboards of our brain, but here you have it again

ºC to ºF = ºC (9/5) +32

ºF to ºC = ºF -32 (5/9)

Or also, quicker:

Celsius Fahrenheit
-10 14
-9 15.8
-8 17.6
-7 19.4
-6 21.2
-5 23
-4 24.8
-3 26.6
-2 28.4
-1 30.2
0 32
1 33.8
2 35.6
3 37.4
4 39.2
5 41
6 42.8
7 44.6
8 46.4
9 48.2
10 50
20 68
30 86
40 104
50 122
60 140
70 158
80 176
90 194
100 212

Finally, cooking conversions are a real headache, and I have found a really useful website, so I am going to copy the charts from there:

Liquids

1 tsp 6ml
1 tbsp 15ml
1/8 cup 30ml
1/4 cup 60ml
1/2 cup 120ml
1 cup 240ml

Dried ingredients

1 tsp 5g
1 tbsp 15g
1oz 28g
1 cup flour 150g
1 cup caster sugar 225g
1 cup icing sugar 115g
1 cup brown sugar 175g
1 cup sultanas 200g

Butter

1/8 cup 30g
1/4 cup 55g
1/3 cup 75g
1/2 cup 115g
2/3 cup 150g
3/4 cup 170g
1 cup 225g

Oven temperatures

275°F 140°C Gas Mark 1
150°C 300°F Gas Mark 2
165°C 325°F Gas Mark 3
180°C 350°F Gas Mark 4
190°F 375°F Gas Mark 5
200°C 400°F Gas Mark 6
220°C 425°F Gas Mark 7
230°C 450°F Gas Mark 8

I hope this can be useful for you!

Writing laws is easy, but proofreading them must be difficult

Divieto accesso non addetti

First things first, my apologies for what I’ve done to Tolstoy’s quote in the title. I am going to talk about laws and crimes, and that was one of mine!

I have been thinking about writing this post for quite a long time, remembering a funny English class in Salamanca with the unforgettable John Hyde. Today I have seen a link on Facebook, and the title seemed something similar, so I felt the need to finally really sit down and work to it. All started when John, determined to have our really mixed class learning English by the end of the year, brought us a copy of this article from The Telegraph with some funny laws still in use in England and abroad. I am also attaching a .pdf version of the articles so you can easily read them without ads and pop-ups.

Ten stupidest laws are named – Telegraph

Some of them are just funny, but others, unfortunately, are offensive and really discriminatory, as you can see with more details in this article:

Funny Laws 1

and in this extensive blog post:

Funny Laws 2

Before starting making fun of some of these examples, let’s pretend we are serious. I am briefly going to explain why some of these laws are still in use or why they even exist. The British law system is based on the common law, which means that there hasn’t been an extensive codification resulting in general rules. Its system is, instead, based on precedents, which stand as the examples used to judge cases including the same set of facts. This is why the laws are so specific; to give an example:

In Alabama, it is illegal to be blindfolded while driving a vehicle.

Does that mean that it is legal in the rest of the states? No, it means that probably in Alabama they had to face a case in which the driver was blindfolded, and to rule about that, while the other states never had a similar case.

Now let’s talk about some specific laws that are puzzling or funny. To start, please have a look at this link, because the comments to each law are really witty and I cannot hope to do such a good job!

My favourites:

It is illegal to die in the Houses of Parliament… You cannot have a law like this in Italy where, until recently, the youngest MP was aged 70!

Mince pies cannot be eaten on Christmas Day… Thank God I was in Italy for Christmas, because I totally had mince pies, and I also lured my dad into crime!

In the UK a pregnant woman can legally relieve herself anywhere she wants, including in a policeman’s helmet… Also, no one is going to double check if you are wearing your “baby on board” badge just to take the piss out of a policeman. Never an idiom was better used than this one!

In Switzerland, a man may not relieve himself standing up after 10pm… But no one will blame you if you tell your flatmates that it is illegal at all times; it may even work and you may not be afraid of walking into the bathroom!

In Switzerland, it is illegal to flush a toilet after 10pm… Ok, Swiss people, what is your problem with toilets after 10pm? Is it something like don’t feed the Gremlin after midnight?

In Florida, unmarried women who parachute on a Sunday could be jailed… Of course, they should go to the park and look for a man, it’s Sunday!

In France, it is illegal to name a pig Napoleon… But, apparently, it is legal to let it run the empire. No, wait, that really WAS Napoleon!

The only two states where divorce is illegal are the Philippines and The Vatican… Such a shame, it sounded so perfectly funny to go and live a life of sins in The Vatican!

In July 2013 a law was passed in China that states it is illegal for adult children to not visit their parents “often” in China. They are also required to attend to their parent’s spiritual needs… They needed a law for that? Emotional blackmail has worked so well for decades in Italy!

In Iowa, it is illegal for a man with a mustache to kiss a woman in public… I tried that one as well with my ex-boyfriend, but it didn’t work, he didn’t shave anyway!

In Kentucky, a woman cannot remarry the same man more than three times… Now I understand why Liz Taylor always tried to avoid Kentucky!

In France, it is stated as illegal to marry a dead person… It makes sense, that would kill the party!

In Samoa it is illegal to forget your wife’s birthday… Now stop looking up how to move to Samoa with your husbands!

In Australia, men are free to cross-dress, just as long as their dresses are not strapless… You know, melanoma is a huge concern in OZ!

In Massachusetts it is deemed illegal for a woman to be on top during sex. It is also apparently illegal in Massachusetts for a man and a woman who rent a room for the night to sleep in the nude… Wow, now I get all that obstruction to my plans to stay in Boston for the night!

No hanky panky allowed in Connecticut. A person who commits any unnatural and lascivious act with another person commits a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. It is illegal for unmarried couples to commit lewd acts and live together… Well, let’s close this post right here, being thankful for being back to London, and trying to forget this before next trip!