Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Ö-Ö-Ötzi Goodbye

At the weekend Radio 4 Extra Radiolab dealt with Ötzi.

In September 1991 a corpse was unearthed (unsnowed, perhaps?) near the border between Austria and Italy. The nearness to  the border wasn't a matter of great import at first: it was just a question of whose authorities would handle the red tape – checking missing persons lists, informing relatives...

There were some living relatives as it happens:
Living links to the Iceman have now been revealed by a new DNA study. Gene researchers looking at unusual markers on the Iceman's male sex chromosome report that they have uncovered at least 19 genetic relatives of Ötzi in Austria's Tyrol region.

The match was made from samples of 3,700 anonymous blood donors in a study led by Walther Parson at Innsbruck Medical University. Sharing a rare mutation known as G-L91, "the Iceman and those 19 share a common ancestor, who may have lived 10,000 to 12,000 years ago," Parson said. 
When it was found that the corpse was a mummy of a man who lived and breathed (and suffered and feared and bled) 5,300 years ago the nearness to the border took on a heightened importance. The fact that the mummy is now in a custom-built museum in Bolzano indicates that the Italian claims won (by a few metres).
The mummy, as shown in Wikipedia.
(See note)
Ötzi ...also called the Iceman, the Similaun Man (ItalianMummia del Similaun), the Man from Hauslabjoch, the Tyrolean Iceman, and the Hauslabjoch mummy, is the well-preserved natural mummy of a man who lived between 3400 and 3100 BCE*.The mummy was found ...on the border between Austria and Italy. He is Europe's oldest known natural human mummy, and has offered an unprecedented view of Chalcolithic (Copper Age) Europeans. His body and belongings are displayed in the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in BolzanoSouth Tyrol, Italy.
*HD note: The numbers differ between reports ("...may have lived 10,000 to 12,000 years ago" versus "lived between 3400 and 3100 BCE") because  Ötzi's remains have been the object of nearly 30 years of speculation and study during which there has been much speculation punctuated by actual finds.  
Note on the image:the Radiolab programme says his right arm is raised, suggesting that the jpeg is displayed back-to-front. 
Ötzi was in his mid-forties at the time of his death – making him relatively old, for his day (long before the founding of the NHS, or indeed  the founding of the Roman Empire, or the building of the pyramids). He had had what some would call a good innings, although that "good" is questionable given the signs of wear and tear:
The 40-something's list of complaints include worn joints, hardened arteries, gallstones, and a nasty growth on his little toe (perhaps caused by frostbite).  
Furthermore, the Iceman's gut contained the eggs of parasitic worms, he likely had Lyme disease, and he had alarming levels of arsenic in his system (probably due to working with metal ores and copper extraction). Ötzi was also in need of a dentist—an in-depth dental examination found evidence of advanced gum disease and tooth decay... 
Despite all this, and a fresh arrow wound to his shoulder, it was a sudden blow to the head that proved fatal to Ötzi. 

But it was the contents of  Ötzi's gut that are of particular interest; and findings based on his gut contents are relatively recent as at first his stomach seemed to be missing; but they were found in 2010. And the intestinal tract is 'like a map and  a diary' – to quote one expert interviewed for the programme. The contents of his innards show that he was high in the mountains drinking water containing fir pollen, then down in the valley drinking water containing traces of hornbeam pollen, and then back up drinking water containing traces of fir pollen.

And before his final killing (brought down by the arrow and then dispatched with blows of a rock to the  head) he had cooked and eaten a feast  – 1½ pounds of cooked goat meat (a heavy meal by any standards, and so heavy that it  made flight impossible). Which one of the presenters said, showed that 'he felt safe enough' to build a fire, cook his meal and eat it.

In my view there's another explanation. Maybe, foreshadowing Marcus Aurelius, and even the Stoics who inspired Marcus by several thousand years, he had accepted his fate:
Soon you'll be ashes or bones. A mere name at most—and even that is just a sound, an echo. The things we want in life are empty, stale, trivial. 

He  was tired of running. Let his pursuers see the smoke of the fire. He was bleeding and tired. His village in the valley had been overrun (and maybe his family had  been killed or worse), and there was nothing he could do about it. But he was going out with a full stomach: Never weather-beaten sail more willing bent to shore.

In Passing

I ordered these the other day:
When I searched for them I used the search string pink tepe.  But I held the e key down for a millisecond too long, and got this helpful alternative:

Be careful what you wish for, especially when AI's involved. (And I bet Ötzi's  teepee wasn't pink.)

But I must be getting on (which I am of course, but you know what I mean: both getting on and getting on).


Update 2019. – Added PS.

My note on the mixed reports was correct in general but unnecessary in this case, as the speaker was referring to a shared ancestor  " who may have lived 10,000 to 12,000 years ago" which of course isn't incompatible with the "5,300" claim; silly mistake, reminiscent of the Darwinian  "descended from apes" mistake.

Thursday, 7 March 2019

Up the creek, sans pagaie/senza pagaia/sin remo...

This tweet led me to a timely Guardian article:

Brexit Britain cannot afford to be laissez-faire about its languages crisis

Of course it can't. A post-Brexit exporter won't get very far by talking English slowly and in a loud voice, or by using home-grown machine-translated customer-facing materials such as this:
Customer misguidance originally shared on Facebook.
Over the centuries, we Britons have come to believe that we are naturally proficient – exceptional, even – in certain pursuits. These include engineering, literature, the classics, pop music, geography and football...
But it is instructive, when thinking about the UK and Britishness and what might lie in store for us in the future, to consider the pursuits about which we do not feel so confident. Of these, by far the most significant – and the most worrying – is other languages.

But another tweet via the same source underlined the short-sighted idiocy of the government's decision to make languages optional after year 9 (or what we used to know as the third year):
(I'n not  sure how the dates work n this tweet, but the tweeter's heart is in the right place.)

To quote a BBC article published in January 2011:
The requirement for teenagers to take a language at GCSE was ended by the last Labour government in 2004. It led to a massive slump in the numbers taking languages.
Back then it seemed as though some reversal of this obscurantist decision was on the cards.


But in a more recent article (February 2019) the BBC quoted Matthew Fell, chief UK policy director for business group the CBI.
"Employer demand for French, German and Spanish skills have significantly increased over the last few years. 
"The decline in language learning in schools must be reversed, or else the UK will be less competitive globally and young people less prepared for the modern world. 
"As well as speaking a foreign language, increasing young people's cultural awareness and their ability to work with people from around the world is just as important."
But I must get on.


Thursday, 28 February 2019

As I was saying

The words "As I was saying" trigger in me a memory I described a few years ago, here
[<something>] reminded me of a story I heard in a half-remembered lecture, about Juan del Encina.
<autobiographical_note date_range="1971-1972">
In May 1972 I was ... not quite a world authority on sixteenth-century Spanish literature, but Professor E. M. Wilson, my lecturer for that year, was.  
Juan del Encina
Juan del Encina, author of some of the seminal works in Spanish Golden Age literature, was arrested by the Holy Inquisition in the middle of a lecture. He was away for some considerable time (years, I think, but I was never much of a note-taker; I'm sure the details are somewhere on the Internet, if you‘re that way inclined). 
When he returned, his opening words were Dicebamus hesterno  die [="{As} we were saying the other day"].
It was partly because of Professor Wilson's specialism (he had just contributed the chapter on Calderón to the standard work on Golden Age Literature first published in 1971) that the Hispanic Society chose the play mentioned here.
Back on terra firma (this post, phew)  this is in effect an update to one I wrote nearly five years ago, but it's a bit more than an afterthought. It hinges on some research notes I produced in the late 1970s – when my future had more in it than my past.
I found the notes during a massive clearout of things I had written. The earliest was a spy spoof I produced when I was still wearing shorts.
(no reference here, for North American readers, to deshabille. These were the 'my mamma done told me' kind of dress: knee-pants, if you will). 
Just to recap the gist of my speculative idea:
The royal coat of arms of Great Britain bears the motto Dieu et mon droît (a reference to the divine right of kings). Google finds well over 200,000,000 hits for the rather feeble (not to say meaningless) translation 'God and my right'. 
Somewhere (when I had reading rights in the old BM reading room) I found a French bible with the words Le Seigneur est ma justesse, which appears in the AV (no refs. today, my battery's about to die, as is my brain) as 'The Lord is my righteousness'.
Cutting to the chase, let's imagine Dieu e[s]t mon droît was the translation in some French bible of the verse that appears in the AV* as 'The lord is my righteousness'. The French-speaking Plantagenets would have met it. What better motto for Henry (the first king of Great Britain to adopt the motto) to adopt as a statement of a newly defined right (Henry having picked it up from his forebear Richard I, who favoured it as a crusading battle cry [meaning, roughly, 'God's on my side'])? 
*[2019 correction] I was wrong about the AV, which has (Jeremiah 23:6) 'the Lord our righteousness' . The Revised Standard Version   has Jeremiah 23:6 translated as 'the Lord is our righteousness' (as do other versions)
A French version of this battle cry might have been Dieu est notre droit, which in Old French could have had et for este before -st becomes acute, and all this correct spelling stuff wouldn't have bothered Richard I (or his advisers, or chaplain) when he adopted it as his motto at Gisors in 1198. And a few centuries later (as my original post said). it was in use at around the time that defining the divine right of kings became relevant.
Getting One's Metaphors in a Twist
David Coleman is not the only source of Colemanballs. Sports commentaries generally offer a cornucopia of such infelicities. The need for a continuous stream of verbiage almost guarantees it.  In the half-time break of a recent Ireland/England rugby match an  example was produced and allowed to slip away unnoticed (apparently unnoticed in the studio, but linguistically aware observers were on the qui vive). 
England had dominated the first half, but in the last ten minutes Ireland were resurgent, and had a one point lead.  The person leading the panel of interested parties in the studio wanted to say Ireland's tails were up and Ireland's noses were in front. Given the positional sense of the two metaphors (tails up/noses in front) it's no surprise that what came out of the presenter's mouth was the posturally improbable mixture: 
Ireland have their tails in front.
But those shelves won't clear themselves.


Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Turn hell hound, turn

I don't have a PhD, nor am I a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies at Columbia University. But I know a self-important windbag when I see one. Richard Hanania brings all those attributes to the party in his article
It Isn’t Your Imagination: Twitter Treats Conservatives More Harshly Than Liberals 
The gist of his beef (if that's not too sinewy a metaphor) is:
Until now, conservatives have had to rely on anecdotes to make their case. To see whether there is an empirical basis for such claims, I decided to look into the issue of Twitter bias by putting together a database of prominent, politically active users who are known to have been temporarily or permanently suspended from the platform.
He continues  with a description of the massive database he has used to put flesh on the whinging bones of neo-con "argument" :
My results make it difficult to take claims of political neutrality seriously. Of 22 prominent, politically active individuals who are known to have been suspended since 2005 and who expressed a preference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, 21 supported Donald Trump.
"My results", he says – pretty impressive. As I write, his piece has attracted more than 140 comments, mostly unreadable and full of references to a mixture of acronyms and slang that frankly isn't worth the bother of decrypting. But there is the occasional nugget, like
...And the statistical analysis? Unless we know the proportion of liberals versus conservatives versus apoliticals in the base population from which the 22 cases were drawn, the analysis is meaningless. Maybe conservatives are more likely to use Twitter? That could account for some or all of the bias. How would we even know what the political composition of the base population looks like?
Count 'em: 22; that's the sample size. The same (very long) comment concludes:
And even in the unlikely circumstance that the base population has exactly equal numbers of liberals and conservatives, using 5% as the significance level versus 1% requires further justification, as does the use of what is apparently a ‘one-tailed’ analysis [the author is vague on this point].
As I said at the outset, I have no statistical expertise. But I think I can detect here a statistician  who doesn't buy the "analysis".

But this comment provoked a huge backlash, which the author "Jack B. Nimble" (wish I'd thought of that) batted away with arguments  such as
Do Twitter users skew liberal? Your linked data are from 2012! I can suggest two reasons why old data are unreliable:
  1. [HD: my numbering and formatting]  Trump effect: Trump’s use of Twitter may have drawn in hordes of his supporters to Twitter starting in 2015, so they can follow his tweets in real time.
  1. Obama effect: Obama may have encouraged a generation of young adults to become liberals starting in 2009, and we all know that young people adopt new tech sooner than old people.
Are Twitter users in 2019 more likely to be liberal than the base population of average citizens? I don’t know and you don’t know.

 This is what paedocracy looks like

And in unrelated news, I was reminded recently of a post that I wrote a  few years ago, when the government were renewing their relentless attacks on the young (this was before they wasted 2½ years arguing the toss about Brexit and doing little else). Their latest wheeze at the time was to restrict Housing Benefit so that the little blighters could stay at home until they were 21.

This was the latest in a series of reforms (that's politician-speak for retrograde step) that started much earlier:
If I had my time again I'd be feeling extremely paranoid. The pressure starts being heaped on at primary school, where – as I mentioned last time – not only are the hoops you have to jump through getting smaller and higher, they are held by fools (or lions led by donkeys: look at the comments to that David Crystal blog I cited, and you'll see a good and conscientious teacher being forced into the goons' short-sighted bidding by an inflexible marking scheme). 
Then there's secondary school, where the hoops are not only smaller and higher, now they're ringed with flame. Where Victorian schools had notices saying Boys and Girls, they should now say
Lasciate ogni speranza, voi ch'entrate 
(commonly mis-translated as 'Abandon hope all ye who enter here'. It's 'all hope'.) 
And when the kids get through the hoops anyway, there's the ritual annual decrying of standards. 'More of them should be failing' snarl the hounds of hell (oh yes, I'm still working on the Dante theme).
I went on to talk about the woeful imposition (and raising "until the pips squeak") of tuition fees. Generally, my feelings about the way young people were being screwed over were not optimistic.
We're filling the streets with angry young men. And somehow I don't think it's just a revolution in theatre we're fomenting. Today's Jimmy [HD 2019: Jimmy Porter] is armed not just with an ironing board but with the power of the Internet.
But the streets are being filled by angry young men and women armed with nothing more threatening than disgust at the mess adults have made of the world, chanting 'This is what democracy Looks Like':

There's hope for the planet yet, if these good people have  anything to do with it. The comparison between these children's righteous anger and the feeding frenzy of bile accompanying Dr Hanania's whinging is heartening.

But prepare to repel time's wingéd chariot.


Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Aus der Alten Welt

Shortly after its first performance in Prague in 1880, Dvořák's Stabat Mater was performed several times in the UK, starting with a performance at the Royal Albert Hall in 1883.
Dvořák's Stabat Mater (1880) was performed and very well received at the Royal Albert Hall in London on 10 March 1883, conducted by Joseph Barnby.[2] The success "sparked off a whole series of performances in England and the United States", a year ahead of appreciation in Germany and Austria.[2] Dvořák was invited to visit Britain where he appeared to great acclaim in 1884.

On 12 September 1884...
<autobiographical note relevance_value="0">
 (135 years ago – a period neatly bisected by my own birth on 12 September 1951)
Dvořák‘s tour was twice as long ago as the origin of Wokingham Choral Society. Precise records haven't survived  "Autumn 1951" is as close as it gets. 
</autobiographical note>
... it was performed at Worcester, and this title page of the score was signed by members of the orchestra and by Antonin Dvořák (signing himself "Ant."):

The dot above the n may be a reference to the last syllable of his full name,
or it may just be the end of one of the other signatures on this crowded page
As a fellow member of my choir said 'Where has this piece been hiding for the last 40 years?'

I borrowed this observation, and added a few years to the claim - though in all honesty I should admit that although my experience of singing in an SATB choir started in the early 1970s it has not been continuous. 

The piece really is extraordinarily tuneful. Don't miss it, or the (free, to ticket-holders) introductory talk.:-)


Update: 2019.02.07.09:40  – Added PS

In an earlier post I wrote
think I've already mentioned (somewhere in this blog) Vulgar Latin's preference for first and second declensions over the less regular third, fourth, and fifth; less to remember – and we are often dealing with Latin for speakers of  a Second or Other Language (LSOL?)
And that preference for regularity extended to  the choice of verbs made by those early speakers of LSOL – not only the choices, but the modifications they made (taking an irregular verb and changing the ending to make it behave like a regular one). This happened to the verb that means give: the irregular
do, dare, dedi, datum

became, in some parts of the Roman Empire, the regular

dono, donare, donavi, donatum

So give in current Spanish is dar, but in current French it is donner.

The last words of Stabat Mater,  a Christian Hymn that dates back to the 13th century,  are
Quando corpus moriétur, 
fac, ut ánimæ donétur 
paradísi glória.

And the rather florid translation given by Wikipedia is
While my body here decays,
may my soul Thy goodness praise,
Safe in Paradise with Thee.

Not only florid, but also fanciful, particularly in the third line. The soul (not necessarily mine) does not do anything; it doesn't praise anything. It is the recipient of something; and to mark it as a recipient it has the dative ...
(a word that, incidentally, derives from the irregular sort of "give" verb)
... ending -ae (in THIS case). The prayer is that the soul may be given the glory of paradise. And the word donaret derives from the regularized form of the word.

Update: 2019.02.17.18:40  – Added inline PPS (see above)

Update: 2019.03.01.11:40  – Added PPPS

The double nn and -er ending of the French example I gave in the first update may give some readers pause. The history of French phonology and orthography are a mystery to me (for reasons I've explained before – basically a lazy choice of study options on my part)...
<rant flame intensity="the heat of a thousand Suns">
I can't use that expression without flashbacks of the horror I (not infrequently) feel when people use "on my behalf" as though it  meant the same.
... but I'm happy to regard them as a given (which, after all, they are).

So perhaps another example would be more illuminating. The word donation is also probably derived* (ultimately; via the Old French donacion) from the regularized DONARE. I say "probably" because although there is no hint of an n in any part of do, dare, dedi, datum, there is an obvious direct line from DONATIONE(M) (I've explained this typographical convention before; a classical Latinist would be content to say donatio, -onis).

Update: 2019.03.17.10:40  – Added footnote.

*On further reflection it seems to me that this word is not le mot juste. My mistake was to think in terms of one word directly influencing a new word. But what really happens is a systemic pressure for change to words in a particular  field. Given DONATIONE(M) a new system of words was formed, centred on DONARE.

Saturday, 26 January 2019

Spoiling the ship

The ha'p'orth of tar in this case was the cost of a plane ride from Nantes, to Cardiff. On board was Cardiff's new signing, the young Emiliano Sala.

According to the French site it is just under 400 km as the crow flies from Calais to Cardiff, and just under 500 km from Nantes to Calais. It is also as it happens just under 500 km as the crow flies from Nantes to Cardiff, passing over Guernsey. And more than 200 km of that route is over  the cold deep Atlantic
You can probably guess where I'm going with this.

A BBC News report from over 3 years ago quoted an  aviation expert
Flying alone across the Atlantic Ocean in a tiny, single-engine plane at low altitudes, sometimes in extreme weather conditions, is not for the faint-hearted. Things can and do go wrong.
This is not news. In 1931 Antoine de St-Exupéry published Vol de Nuit, based on his experiences extending  the Aéropostale route from Dakar over the Atlantic to Natal, then South past Buenos Aires and then along the coast of Patagonia to Punto Arenas. If anyone knew about night flying over the Atlantic in light aircraft it was St-Exupéry  (who took his expertise to an early and watery possibly suicidal...
Speculation is still going on, more than 70 years after the event; some people think they know but others aren't so sure. It happened during what he knew was to be his final sortie (as a result of demobilization rather than death). It seems possible that he picked a fight against impossible odds out of a sense of invulnerability. His commander regrets not grounding him.

The editor of the Heinemann edition of Vol de Nuit writes of the reasons for extending the Aéropostale service to South America:
The air transport companies, through being grounded at night, were  losing most of the advantage over other methods of transport which they gained by day.
That is, there was money to be had by taking risks involving night flying.  You can probably guess where I'm going with this.

In a World Service interview on Tuesday evening [about 33'30" into that programme] Alastair Rosenstein, an experienced pilot and now an aviation consultant, says
...[l]et's say they were crossing at 10,000 feet [he has already mentioned a report that they were much-lower; and they had requested air traffic control at Guernsey to drop further still] , it would give them about 15 minutes of gliding time. It narrows the risk period that they are unable to reach land, and at this time of year you absolutely have to reach land in a single-engined aircraft... 
I used to cross the Channel myself in light aircraft and I'd always choose the Dover-Calais route, because it's only 20 miles and if you go high enough there's a very very short time period right in the centre of the Channel where you wouldn't be able to reach land. But at night, low level, over the Channel, it's not advisable.
In a final, horribly prescient voice message the young Argentine footballer said
If in  an hour and a half you have no news  from me I don't know if they are going to send someone to look for me; because they cannot find me. But you know...Dad*, how scared am I.
Whatever turns out to have been the reason for this sorry tale, regardless of the air-worthiness of the aircraft (which that voice message calls into question) or the suitability of the pilot, or questions about licensing, or who paid for the flight, it's obvious that money comes into it somewhere. Spoilt ships and ha'p'orths of tar spring to mind. After lashing out a mind-boggling transfer fee, a Euro or two more spent on a reliable aircraft/route would have been a wise investment.

Radix malorum est cupiditas, as Chaucer's Pardoner used to say; the love of money is the root of all evil. Here endeth today's lesson.

Update: 2019. – Added footnote.

* At first I lazily accepted the "translation" provided by Facebook. (In all honesty I thought Dad was pretty improbable, but the subtitle lasted longer than the recording, so I couldn't check.)  I  think, in the circumstances, he‘s  more likely to have said Mi Padre (that is, God); in fact  I once knew an Argentine student who habitually invoked the deity in Italian. If this practice is common in Argentina  it could  have been Padre Mio. The translation would still be God, but as I said the recording is cut off.

Update: 2019. – Added PS


A  week later, the crash site has been found: here are the BBC's and Global News's reports. David Mearns, leader of a privately-funded search for the aircraft, said he found it on Sunday. The BBC report says:
Speaking on Radio 4's Today programme on Monday, Mr Mearns said: "We located the wreckage of the plane on the seabed at a depth of about 63m within the first couple of hours [of searching]." 
He said the plane was identified by sonar, before a submersible with cameras was sent underwater and was able to confirm it was the plane.

Friday, 18 January 2019

Words "we" mispronounced

When, in the late-noughties (at the 2008 or 2009 Language Show) I first saw Babbel's offering my lip curled. A whois search shows that they were first thought of as early as 2000:

But Wikipedia claims that they were founded much later, in 2007:
The company was founded in August 2007 by Markus Witte and Thomas Holl.[4][5] In January 2008, the language learning platform went online with community features as a free beta version.
And who am I to question Wikipedia ? Perhaps Messrs Write and Holt met earlier and registered the domain name in 2000, but didn't get around to monetizing their idea (if you'll pardon the verb) for another seven years.

Anyway, this lip-curling I mentioned. They were touting  a way of transcribing English using unmodified spelling...

Beginning of list there are many
more subjects on offer

I  may be misrepresenting them. The problem is that their web site is so constructed that it is impossible to get details of their transcription system without signing up for a course. And my interest in that is attenuated by the dropdown list of languages they offer, which starts like this: 
Whatever that may be, I'm not in the  market for it.
My attention was recalled to this way of representing the sounds of English by a BBC article on the words "we" (whoever that is) mispronounced in 2018. After the main text (which I'll get to, honest) were the words Pronunciations provided by Babbel. I imagine this was meant to imply some sort of suggestion of gratefulness; but what should I be grateful for: For being confused? For being misinformed?

After the piece there was a reference to last year's words, which included the surname of EU Council President Donald Tusk (toosk). Oh yes? is that "oo" as in book or tool or blood...? I've said before that "sounds like" models of pronunciation are questionable (and I apologize for using them just now to make a point; I've heard Mr Tusk's name pronounced with all three of the pronunciations I mentioned (/ʊ/, /u:/, and /ʌ/); I suspect he pronounces it with a wholly different vowel: [y]?)

In an earlier post I ranted thus:
<rant flame="simmer">
 I have ranted about this before, somewhere  in the UsingEnglish forums, but I can't find where. So some readers may get a sense of déjà-lu – but probably not. (And I did mean -lu.) Anyway, here I go again. 
When you know your audience (and that word is crucial  –  when people can hear you) it's OK to say things like 'lear sounds like leer'. 'Sounds like' is meaningful only if there's a known sound to compare. But when you're writing – say, in an online forum – it's not so easy. What  if one of your readers has just learnt bear, pear, tear (NOT the lachrymal sort) or wear, so that the /eǝ/ sound is uppermost in their short-term memory of English sounds? You've told them that leer is pronounced  /leǝ/. 
Or suppose one of your readers mispronounces law as /lǝʊ/  –  a common enough mistake in an ESOL classroom   –  and you write that a word  'sounds like law'. Again, you've misinformed them. And I don't think that's too strong a word, at  least not in a language-teaching context.  If the teacher wants to communicate something, it's part of the job to make sure it's understood correctly. 
And I went on to say how easy and efficient IPA phonemic symbols are – particularly with reference to English. You can see the whole rant in its natural habitat here.

But I really must address those words "we" mispronounced in 2018. There weren't many in the BBC article, which referred to "A survey by the British Institute for Verbatim Reporters (BIVR) " but the link is just to the BIVR site, so one is none the wiser.
Entries include electronics firm Huawei (WA-way), specific (spe-SI-fik) and papoose (pa-POOSE).
OK, Huawei is a fair cop (though does "way" mean /weɪ/ or /waɪ/?).
And I'm not so sure about  the "WA" either. now I come to think of it. The H suggests that we may be dealing with the unvoiced bilabial frictionless continuant /ʍ/ (not unlike the sound at the beginning of "which" as heard in Edinburgh.
Which recalls to me a spelling test we were given in primary school by Miss O'Malley – a Scot, who expected us to distinguish between Wales and whales, not knowing (or perhaps not caring) that Received Pronunciation of British English uses /w/ for both (although some native speakers of British English do make a distinction between /ʍ/ and /w/  – as a matter of
either regional pronunciation or just pure pedantry [encouraged by the Miss O'Malleys of this world].).
 But in nearly seventy years (OK, say 58 as an observer of language...
Really starting so young? Well yes. Before my tenth birthday, during a trip to Italy, I remember marvelling at the gratuitous mischievousness  of a language that marked a hot tap with a C.
...  I've never heard any native English speaker mis-stress specific. And pa-POOSE: whatever the vowel may be, does it end with /s/ or /z/?

The BBC article ends
The survey was commissioned by language learning app Babbel. [HDAha. Cui bono?) Their director of didactics, Miriam Plieninger, says the reason for the mispronunciations is pretty straightforward - many of the words on the list aren't English.
Gosh – wish I'd thought of that. But Babbel makes an awful lot more money than I have ever done; and Ms Plieninger ends with this unarguable point:
"If you understand what the other person meant, it's usually fine. As long as you get your message across, it's all good."
Right. Back to the land of the living.


And here's a rather easy (but fairly neat, I think) French-based crossword clue.
  • The workshop more recently Frenchified (1'7)
Update: 2019.01.19.15:20 – Fixed a bunch of typos.
Update: 2019.01.21.11:10 – Added PPS

And while we're on the subject of mispronouncing. the recent TV dramatization of Victor Hugo's The Glums (and I'll keep cracking that joke until somebody laughs [except that maybe it's not that funny..?] OK Les Misérables ) is a generous source...
(The thing is, as I said once of Pizarro, one mustn't expect modern pronunciations in a period piece. I remember being told by the late Joe Cremona [philological non-pareil, mentioned from time to time in this blog] that when Louis Numéro-quelconque said "L'état c'est moi" the moi would have been pronounced [mwɛ].)
.... But as the mispronunciation that irks me is a current mispronunciation in English speakers (I often hear it on The Great British Bake-off in the word mille-feuilles) I'm not sure how forgiving I should be.

The problem word is Montreuil,  whose last syllable several actors give a very English /ɔɪ/. And, in the light of the mess Javert made of  "prognathous" (I wrote about actors needing to understand the lines they learn here), I'm inclined to think the worst.

But I must go. If you read that  Pizarro, post you may have noticed (tucked away in a footnote) mention of Simon and Garfunkel, who are the subject of a jaunt I'm off on.

Update: 2019.01.24.12:35 – Added inline PPPS