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October 2010

The March for McElwee

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.

The Following Poem

The Following Poem is made out of the names of people we follow on Twitter. It's in honour of National Poetry Day, whose Twitter address provides the emotional climax of the poem.


@abstractcity @prttyshtty
@eyemagazine @sjgreen
@ztf @L_D_F
@zerofee_ela @fred_dela

@YorkshireTea @sbeebee
@Paiku @creativereview
@Design_Week @AdFreak
@Nicko66 @adamrix

@LaurenceKingPub @newspaperclub
@graphicflow @SteveMartinToGo
@swissmiss @checkthis
@SueJaneA @PoetryDayUK

Remember, this is the kind of thing Milton would be doing if he was around today.