Differences between American and British coinage.

Today’s Word of the Day is shill. You may not find this in a British English dictionary, but the American journalist Michael Tomasky wrote in his Guardian blog post yesterday:

“Listen up. I am not a shill!!”

The Oxford English Dictionary does list the word in Tomasky’s sense of ‘a decoy or accomplice, esp. one posing as an enthusiastic or successful customer to encourage other buyers, gamblers, etc,’ which it dates to 1916. It adds, from 1976, ‘One who poses as a disinterested advocate of another but is actually of the latter’s party; a mouthpiece, a stooge’. The usage is described as ‘slang (chiefly N. Amer.), [Origin unknown.]’

Interestingly, Tomasky later uses the verb shilling – what kind of a coinage is that?

Taxonomy, tax avoidance and banned words

Banned words and secret tax documents make uneasy companions

Today’s Word of the Day, taxonomy, is hastily rescued from the ‘banned jargon list’ before it disappears.

The BBC site has an article about council leaders’ ‘banned list of the 200 worst uses of jargon’. A Plain English Campaign spokeswoman said: ‘Churchill and Einstein were both plain speakers and they did OK.’ So the theory or relativity is plain English, then? Odd, too, that quantum is on the ‘worst offenders’ list.

I console myself that my concerns about the loss of, inter alia, symposium and pathfinder may be misplaced. After all, the mighty Barclays Bank (have they banned apostrophes?) has been granted an injunction (councils note: ‘gagging order’ to be used in future) to remove documents about its tax affairs from the Guardian site. Only 127 people had, the paper reports, accessed the documents before they were removed at 2.30 am yesterday. Yet these same papers are now available elsewhere on the Internet in seconds by searching for something like ‘Barclays tax avoidance secret documents’ (though all references to this are immediately removed from the paper’s discussion threads, so don’t say I told you). So it looks as though ‘coterminosity’ will be at least as safe as a banker’s bonus.

Have a profitable and jargon-free day – even the taxonomists amongst you!

‘Playwrights are more important than politicians’

Mark Ravenhill comments in The Guardian: ‘Playwrights are more important than politicians. So why do powerful people mesmerise me?’

He claims: ‘I think what playwrights do is more important than what most politicians do. Being a dramatist isn’t just about writing. That part often takes just a few weeks. But we do spend a long time thinking about how people behave, how they live together, how they might live together better – as well as the great cruelties they are capable of. And we’re constantly testing language, time and space in our work, to extend the possibilities of human experience. Politicians are concerned with the pragmatic business of running the world; artists, meanwhile, dedicate themselves to finding new insights into our existence. Most of the insights are feeble or crackpot – but some are visionary.’ And, as he says, many are about politicians.

Free resources on National Theatre productions

Really useful education packs from National Theatre productions

The National Theatre has some really useful education packs from productions past as well as present – though they’re not very easy to find on the website. The section you need is in the ‘Discover’ section, where you should follow the link to Resource Packs; the Past productions section, in particular, has a long list. Of course Stagework, also from the National Theatre, is excellent and more interactive, but these pages on the main NT site have materials from A Midsummer Night’s Dream to Hamlet and Translations.

Raising a storm with ‘The Tempest’

Terrific production of ‘The Tempest’ from Baxter Theatre Centre and the Royal Shakespeare Company

If you haven’t already got your tickets to see The Tempest in the production from Baxter Theatre Centre and the Royal Shakespeare Company, I’d urge you to book now! We saw it at the RSC’s Courtyard Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon on Saturday and it’s terrific: Antony Sher, John Kani and a cast of South African actors, musicians and puppeteers. Starts with a bang and just gets better! As Lyn Gardner wrote in The Guardian: ‘Michael Billington has been raving about The Tempest, but don’t worry if you can’t get to Stratford because it’s heading out on tour.’ Read Michael Billington’s 5-star review here. It tours to Richmond, Leeds, Bath, Nottingham and Sheffield – find out more on the RSC site.

Brilliant – catch it if you can!