Keys to Wisdom Keys
Published: Wednesday, 24 June 2009 11:11
Keys. You may have some jingling in your pocket or handbag. Take them out. Look at them. Describe them. Collins dictionary remarks that they are metal instruments that, when rotated, open locks. But there is more to them than that.
In a recent survey, one group used the adjectives "little", "lovely","magic", and "intricate" to describe them while another chose "awkward","worn", "jagged", and "serrated".
This cleverly designed study, reported in this week's New Scientist, attempted to prove scientifically what poets have always known. Language matters. The first group of describers were Spaniards, who see keys as feminine; the second were Germans, for whom they are masculine. The words they used were identified by "gender-blind" English speakers as gender-linked.
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Tartan and home truths
Published: Wednesday, 24 June 2009 11:08
Oh, the swing of the kilt and the skirl of the bagpipes! The tens of thousands who gather annually to try their strength at tossing Scottish cabers around ... in Leipzig.
A mania for "the heedrum-hodrum Celtic twilight", which is afflicting parts of northern Europe, is one of the topics to be researched at a new centre for the study of the Scottish diaspora at Edinburgh University.
But since its launch at the end of last month, the new centre, funded by a £1m donation from a Scottish financier, has been caught up in controversy. Its founder, perhaps Scotland's foremost historian, Professor Tom Devine, announced in the opening lecture that he intended to challenge the "Burns supper" school of Scottish history. As a result, he has been subject to attacks by nationalists accusing him of "unionist revisionism".
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