11 from 11

In the predictable rush to cover natural disasters, political upheaval and the fall of empires, many reviews of 2011 will no doubt fail to note our blogging exploits – so we've been forced to write our own.

Here are eleven posts from 2011:

Mrtrophy

1. The year began on a sad note with Mr Blog’s Valedictory Awards Show.

Mcelwee

2. The valedictory mood continued with reflections on Rob McElwee’s disappearance from our daily lives.

Asda

3 & 4. February was poetry month – one about Asda launching a dating service, and one about the birth of a new Asbury (the defining moment of our year in a big and increasingly noisy way).

Blind

5. April saw ill-informed copywriters defacing a blind man’s sign.

Amnesty
6. May was all about the Creative Amnesty, a joint venture with Creative Review, which saw the great and good of the creative world sharing their worst ideas.

1000words

7. June was the month of 1,000 words.


Friends

8. July was The One With The Really Good Friends Advert.


Wackaging

9. September saw a rare venture into long-form blogging, with some reflections on wackaging and the trouble with copywriting.

Wrapper

10. October saw the unwrapping of WrapperRhymes.

Rotavator

11. And finally there was a salute to the greatest brand name of all time: Rotavator.

 

If you have been, thank you – and happy Christmas.

Last Thoughts on Rob McElwee

Rob-McElwee-006

Last night, Rob McElwee gave his final broadcast on the BBC.

It began: “After 20 years of doing this, you’d think I’d get it right by now. Well, here’s one last go.”

A typically well-crafted two minutes later, it ended: “Waiting behind me is the wild week ahead. And if you’ve been listening to me, thank you."

This blog began documenting the words of Rob McElwee two years ago, as part of a series called A Cloudy Language. It features several weather forecasters, but Rob was the mainstay.

The idea was to recognise the deliberate strategies employed by presenters who are compelled to talk about essentially the same subject every night. Rob McElwee was a master at this. He sought to engage us in what should be one of the most fascinating subjects on television – the mysterious machinery of the elements that shapes our everyday lives. But in his efforts to engage, he never compromised the dignity of his subject, or insulted the intelligence of the viewer. He expected us to take an interest and listen.

Too often, we let him down in this respect. We treat watching the weather forecast as a passive exercise, rather than a two-way process. Note how Rob’s last words thank us for ‘listening’, not for ‘watching’. It’s a deliberate choice of word, aimed at those people who tried to meet him halfway.

As a final tribute to Rob, here are some of his finest moments from the last two years. Admittedly, these include some of his more esoteric pronouncements, when the search for an engaging turn of phrase leads him up strange linguistic paths. But we've enjoyed wandering those paths with him.

“This first week of the four will produce rain a-plenty, some thunder, Met Office warnings and limited area hotness.”

“From Tuesday to Thursday, a flabby low pressure area will allow warm sunshine between slow-moving heavy showers.”

“The thought of increasing cloud and rain is there with you in Wales.”

“Then, to end the week, pressure starts to build, the northerly is cut off and the sun can be bolder.”

“Settled, sunny and increasingly warm weather inhabits the south of the UK.”

“We are still in the story of rain for the time being.”

“That tongue of cloud is a forecast – it may be a little more dispersed than that.”

“A cloud envelope coming up through Cornwall late in the day...”

“Someone seems to have pressed the button marked 'Rain'. At night.”

“This coming month will prove the point as we bring back very cold air and then sit in it.”

“Monday and Tuesday sees the decay of this cloud and its showers.”

“This week is not characterised by excessive sunshine.”

“A cold southeast breeze with much cloud will be our fate.”

“With low confidence, the signal from the virtual atmosphere suggests that central Europe will now be under the centre of the cold anticyclone.”

“Temperatures remain below average but snow will probably be more of a hill or temporary event.”

“Do not dismiss February as a potentially cold month.”

“There seems to be a reluctance on the part of the atmosphere to move with any speed.”

“It's a jagged translation and rain is still in the story.”

“The first few nights this week could grow fog.”

“It’s breezy and the sky responds to that by breaking the cloud up and letting the sun through.”

“I say rain proper because behind my head is lime green and yellow.”

“Windy and wet, or wet and windy: it works either way.”

“Otherwise, it’s just a scattering of showers and big holes in the sky.”

“...and here’s the line of familiarity that brings rain to Northern Ireland.”

“The wind is very much not there.”

Best wishes to Rob in the wild weeks ahead.

The March for McElwee

Protest
Last week, news broke that three BBC weather presenters are to be sidelined as part of cost-cutting measures. The three in question are Tomasz Schafernaker, Phil Avery and – I can hardly believe I'm typing this – Rob McElwee.

This is seriously saddening news.

Regular readers of this blog will be familiar with our long-running series called A Cloudy Language, which celebrates the verbal inventiveness of our nation's weather forecasters. We've long admired how they come up with new ways to talk about essentially the same subject, hour after hour, day after day.

Yes, this sometimes leads to pointless verbosity like 'overnight period' instead of 'night', or 'prolonged spells of precipitation' instead of 'rain'. But it also inspires some genuinely interesting and admirable linguistic creativity. When Rob McElwee talks about a 'flabby low pressure' area, we might laugh at first because it's unexpected, but it's also appropriate and evocative in its own way.

Rob has long been the main contributor to A Cloudy Language, not simply because he's prone to the odd strange phrase, but because, of all the weather presenters, he is the one who tries hardest to involve the viewer by telling a story. He consciously uses language in a quirky and idiosyncratic way with the aim of getting you to view the weather afresh every day. We'll miss that when he goes.

Or if he goes.

Maybe it's a forlorn hope, but we can't help wondering if a little activism might change hearts at the BBC? Thus far, we have used the classic protest technique of creating some hashtags on Twitter – McElweeShallNotBeMoved SchafernakerBacker and AveryDarkDay – but surprisingly this doesn't seem to have done the trick.

Others have done their bit. There's this great blogpost by Joe Moran. And people like @eustondoyoucopy @benwordsmith @mikebreed and @scandb have expressed their support. However, this hasn't yet turned into the mass protest movement we had envisaged, still less a march like the one we have imagined above (original photo from here).

Is there still time? We don't know. Maybe.

But if this really is the end, we plan to honour all three men with a brief farewell blog post of their own, evaluating their contribution to our linguistic weather over the years.

As for A Cloudy Language itself, we are thinking of bringing the series to a close as a protest. It really won't be the same without Rob McElwee. But we don't want to take any rash decisions (unlike the BBC), so this will be kept under review.

That's the blogging, for now.

A Cloudy Language #66



Our Cloudy Language series regularly highlights the fact that weather presenters use more words than necessary to convey the required information.

So it's refreshing to see a respected BBC presenter using no words at all to make a powerful point.

Interestingly, Tomasz Schafernaker has form in this area.

A Cloudy Language #56 to #65

It's been a while since our last Cloudy Language update – apologies.

First, and to prove this isn't all about Rob McElwee, here's a fine contribution from Peter Gibb:
“A tongue of high pressure extending from the Azores puts a lid on the rain this week.
Some more anatomical strangeness from John Hammond:
“This finger of wet weather will pulse up across parts of south-west England.
A nice hall-of-mirrors contribution from Philip Avery:
“I almost feel the urge to warn you that I'm going to warn you that we've got some rain coming.
And some more unhelpful analogies from Daniel Corbett:
“More in the way of wet weather across parts of Scotland – almost like a bit of a two-legged octopus of sorts.

“And then, like a little wiggle of a blue sausage of sorts, the next little wiggle is here, this is the next lump of moisture working in.
But let's face it, this is mainly about Rob McElwee, who continues to dominate the weather picture:
“This first week of the four will produce rain a-plenty, some thunder, Met Office warnings and limited area hotness.
Limited area hotness?
“From Tuesday to Thursday, a flabby low pressure area will allow warm sunshine between slow-moving heavy showers.
Flabby low pressure area?
“The thought of increasing cloud and rain is there with you in Wales.
So remember to pack your thought of an umbrella.
“Then, to end the week, pressure starts to build, the northerly is cut off and the sun can be bolder.
Come on sun, grow a pair.
“Settled, sunny and increasingly warm weather inhabits the south of the UK.
Interesting use of 'inhabits'.

Finally, and as if it hasn't already been on every other blog in the world, here's a clip that shows how meteorological phenomena can bring out the poet in all of us.

Two nations divided by A Cloudy Language

Take note Dan Corbett and Rob McElwee. This is how they do it in America.



Some rather more restrained, stiff-upper-lip examples of Cloudy Language over here.

(Spotted via The Guardian.)

A Cloudy Language #42 to #55

We aim to feature the broadest possible mix of weather presenters in Cloudy Language, but recent weeks have seen an overwhelming Rob McElwee theme. Sightings include:

We are still in the story of rain for the time being.

That tongue of cloud is a forecast – it may be a little more dispersed than that.

A cloud envelope coming up through Cornwall late in the day...

Someone seems to have pressed the button marked 'Rain'. At night.”


(Thanks to Mike for spotting that last one.)

Some readers may think these linguistic quirks are the kind of mis-speakings that are inevitable in a live forecast. But even when Rob is writing his forecasts (as is the case with the regularly updated monthly forecast), he uses the same strange idiolect:

This coming month will prove the point as we bring back very cold air and then sit in it.

Monday and Tuesday sees the decay of this cloud and its showers.”

This week is not characterised by excessive sunshine.

A cold southeast breeze with much cloud will be our fate.

With low confidence, the signal from the virtual atmosphere suggests that central Europe will now be under the centre of the cold anticyclone.

“Temperatures remain below average but snow will probably be more of a hill or temporary event.

Do not dismiss February as a potentially cold month.


That last one is a philosophical puzzle. Is Rob saying that February has no potential to be cold? Or that it might be cold, but we shouldn't dismiss it for that reason? Is it possible to dismiss a month?

In other news, Philip Avery has taken to introducing his forecasts as though welcoming us to a sofa-style chat show:


Thank you for joining me. Welcome along to our latest thoughts on the UK weather scene.


This was swiftly followed by the It's-A-Knockout-style mixed metaphor:


Let's see how we roll out our stall for the first part of Thursday.


Finally, Dan Corbett continues to entertain, suggesting he's the only man in Britain who prepares his wardrobe several days in advance of a possible change in the weather:


For the time being, we look in that cupboard, grab that warm parka and maybe sort of say later in the week, ah yes, glad I grabbed that.


All contributions welcome, especially non-McElwee-related.

Full set here.

A Cloudy Language #33 to #41

Cloudy-Language-Spotting can be a subtle sport. It's not just about the obvious non-sequiturs and flights into surrealism, but the almost imperceptible arrival of new words and usages.

Recent months have seen a trend emerging in the guise of using 'fringe' as an intransitive verb:


“Outbreaks of light and patchy rain starting to fringe in...”
Liam Dutton

“Here some of that rain could be fringing along the coasts...”
Simon King


Rob McElwee continues to treat the earth's meteorological system as a slightly wayward school pupil:


“There seems to be a reluctance on the part of the atmosphere to move with any speed.”
Rob McElwee


(I sometimes think Rob McElwee has the air of an old school teacher whom you meet again years later – slightly awkward and exaggerated friendliness in an attempt to acknowledge that you're both equals, but neither of you can quite shake off the sense that he is still your superior.)

He also has a tendency towards hyper-explanation (trying so hard to explain things that he makes them sound more complicated). For example:


“Southern temperatures will be above average by day thanks to the influence of the sun.”
Rob McElwee


Then there is the odd plain weird turn of phrase:


“It’s a jagged translation and rain is still in the story.”
Rob McElwee

“The first few nights this week could grow fog.”
Rob McElwee


The presenters in general continue to show a remarkable facility for generating new metaphors to describe the same old weather conditions:


“Bagloads of showers affecting the whole of the United Kingdom...”
Chris Fawkes

“The rain moving south, that cloud shield up ahead of it.”
Nick Miller


Finally, Alex Deakin is the winner of this month's internal rhyme scheme award:


“This finger of rain lingering across much of northern England.”
Alex Deakin


Full set here

A Cloudy Language #27 to #32

“We can't rule out the odd heavier pulse and that may well intensify through the night, as it tends to sit in a ribbon-like effect in that south-eastern corner.”
Louise Lear

“Cloud and patchy rain starting to fringe into south-eastern parts of England.”
Liam Dutton

“Notice this little piece of energy sort of bends the weatherfront and winds in some fairly hefty downpours.”
Dan Corbett

“18 is the number standing at the bus-stop in Norwich.”
Dan Corbett

“Kent sticking out into the sunshine.”
Peter Cockroft

“Slightly cloudier tomorrow: a little less in the way of sunshine.”
Peter Cockroft

(Included that last one because it can be read as a contradiction in terms.)

More here.

A Cloudy Language #26 (Swearing edition)

“Some pretty steamy showers on the way, which will give way to quite a muddy shite at Glastonbury.”
Tomasz Schafernaker

Thanks to Mike Reed for spotting that one – see here for the full audio clip, in which poor Tomasz gets a fit of the giggles afterwards.

Clearly he meant to say ‘a muddy sight’, but the forecast is probably quite accurate in the context of Glastonbury.

A Cloudy Language #21 to #25

“High pressure is very firmly ruling the weather roost at the moment.”
Susan Powell

“It will be temperatures actually that are our major fluctuating factor.”
Susan Powell

“Some bits of energy will help to set off a few showers...”
Dan Corbett

“If you are sort of stepping out for that Friday afternoon picnic you should be in pretty good shape.”
Dan Corbett

“Then this next clump of something here, this next little sort of surge of some energy in the area of some patchy rain.”
Dan Corbett

Thanks also to Conor Wynne for writing in to alert us to weather stalwart Martin King of TV3 Ireland. Judging by this solitary YouTube clip, his technique seems to rely less on language and more on rapid footwork. As one of the commenters puts it, “Somone should nail his feet to the ground.”

A Cloudy Language #16 to #20

“A wet sphere behind me and for good reason..."
Philip Avery

“You’ll see that not everybody’s picking up on this showery theme.”
Philip Avery

“For Northern Ireland, one or two showers to start the day: not the showeriest regime by any means at all.”
Philip Avery

“A little surge of energy working in, helping to ignite some of that wet weather.”
Lara Lewington

“And you’ll notice that southerly wind, whether you’re blowing bubbles or not.”
Heather Stott

More examples here (and feel free to send in your own).

A Cloudy Language #13, #14 and #15

“The outlook is really rather quiet, with soft days on Wednesday and Thursday – lots of cloud around.”
Jo Blythe

“Notice how it fizzles out, the rain. The main energy goes well through.”
Dan Corbett

“That ridge of high pressure – it's almost like you've put some glue on the back of it. You stick it to the weather map and just watch it for a couple of days.”
Dan Corbett

(NB: We may have to exclude Dan Corbett's more colourful pronouncements, as he's clearly doing it deliberately.)

Full set here

A Cloudy Language #12

“The wind is very much not there.”
Rob McElwee (again)

Full set here

A Cloudy Language #10 and #11

“It’s breezy and the sky responds to that by breaking the cloud up and letting the sun through.”
Rob McElwee

“I say rain proper because behind my head is lime green and yellow.”
Rob McElwee

Full set here