America's threadbare safety net
Published: Wednesday, 24 June 2009 11:21
Leaving a train station in a suburb of Boston in a white-out one evening recently, I trudged my way through falling snow to the main street. I hailed a passing cab - but did a double take on opening the door.
In the back seat there was a three-year-old girl in a car seat watching TV. Her grandmother was in the driver's seat, a tiny woman whose head was at the same level as the steering wheel.
The pair of them saw me safely to my destination in a full-scale blizzard before setting off to look for other fares. It was 10pm.
Grandmother Julie, in debt after bringing up six children on a low wage, will be 72 before she can claim a state pension. For now, she is doing what she can to make ends meet.
Read more: America's threadbare safety net
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.
Read more: Keys to Wisdom Keys