We’re All In It Together!

I wonder if Davie Cameron's ever picked the mould
Off a loaf of bread and eaten it sans butter.
Does he pick up pennies from the gutter?
I wonder if he watches the electric metre
As his heater eats the power
Of an exactly measured kilowatt-hour.
To save money to feed
His son or his daughter
Does he shave in cold water?
Has he walked five miles for a tin of beans
That's just tuppence cheaper
Than his local Price Beater?
Is his bed the only place where it's warm?
Does he always sniff the milk before making tea?
How does David cope with aus-terity?


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Having fallen asleep over a book containing lots of quotations from letters and what-not from the seventeenth century (Antonia Fraser's The Weaker Vessel; which I highly recommend), I half-woke up several hours later and, for some reason, couldn't stop pondering on the seemingly ubiquitous non-use of apostrophes therein. Some vaguely-remembered advice from an English Language teacher on the subject of writing which was meant to be read aloud versus writing which wasn't, kind of bubbled to the surface. When confronted with a sentence containing many "s" endings, he told us, if the sentence is to be read aloud, be sure that there's no possible confusion between possessives, plurals and words which merely happen to end with the letter.

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So it seems we're stuck with the Lords and Ladies Spiritual. Not unexpected, but still sad.

Separation of church and state?
You'll have theocracy and like it!
We're going nowhere, we're here to stay.
Stick that in your smoke and pipe it!

We bring a message from on high.
You're ours; we don't need your consent.
What you need is pie from the sky;
Government that's Heaven-sent.

Piety by proclamation,
Force-fed though you clamp your jaw.
Our creed shoved down the throats of a nation—
Religion forced at the point of law.

Welcome to the seventeenth century, Gentle Reader. Please remember; prayers should be read only from the Book Of Common Prayer, on pain of, well, pain.
— ✝ William Laud Cantuar

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"The saddest words in the English language," says Bob Hutton, are "'If only…'." And there's many would agree with him. So many, in fact, that it's something of a cliché. But Bob's extremely predictable pious prattle aside, I got to wondering where this cliché first took flight.

Well, as far as a half-hour of googling can tell, surprisingly recently. In an eighteen fifty-four poem, Maud Muller, by the wonderfully named John Greenleaf Whittier, these lines appear:

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So Rustiguzzi sent me a link to this song. Apparently February the fifth is—at least according to John Finnemore—the most miserable day of the year. Well, not in nineteen fifty-three it wasn't! Or not for British children at least. It's the day sweet-rationing ended. (For the second time; they'd first ended the ration in 1949, but demand was so high that the supply couldn't keep up.)

But, anyway, it's an amusing little ditty, so I dug out five other songs which… Well I wouldn't call them all comedy songs, per se, but they all involve something of a sense of humour. So, sit back, pop a ration-free gob-stopper in yer mouth, and enjoy. And maybe have a slight chuckle now and again.

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When I were but a wee nipper, the words "billion" and "trillion" were hardly ever heard, outside of hyperbole, unless one had an interest in astronomy and cosmology. (And even then, we had to be careful in our reading, since the nationality of the author and the editorial policies of their British publisher might make a difference, what with our billion being, until recently, a thousand times larger than the American billion.) These days, "billion" is much more often seen, mostly because of the now-universal adoption of 109 rather than 1012 as the definition of the word, which brings things like world population and national debts into its range; and on the topic of national debts, "trillion" (also shrunken by a factor of one thousand in UK terms) is, distressingly, coming into much more common usage. Which is partly why I found the idea of Microsoft Word's cardtext feature, which converts figures into words—but only up to 999,999—rather less than useful.

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A goodly while back someone, somewhere, asked me if there was a workaround for this and I said I'd get back to 'em. Problem is I can't remember where the question was asked, so I'm just going to post it here and hope they read the blog…

There's an easy way, in VBA, to tell if a selected string in a Microsoft Word document is a number:

Sub IsNumber()
  If IsNumeric(Selection) = True Then
    MsgBox "It's a number"
    MsgBox "It's not a number"
  End If
End Sub

(It will count strings with commas and/or full-stops* (used as decimal points) in them as numbers provided everything else is a digit.)

* That's "periods" to some of you strange foreign types.

Unfortunately there's no equivalent method for telling if a string contains nothing but letters, and that's the workaround I was asked for. Well, my first thought was something like this:

Sub Sub IsABC()
  If Selection.Range.Case = wdLowerCase Or _
   Selection.Range.Case = wdTitleWord Then MsgBox "All letters"
End Sub

… but with a complete list of possible cases instead of just the two in that example. Unfortunately, it turns out that provided the selection includes letters, it'll quite happily report spaces, commas, hyphens etc and even numbers, as being letters. Select one of those things on its own however, and it won't do so—which does leave us with the option of checking character-by-character. So here's my workaround. It ain't pretty, but it does do the job asked of it:

Sub IsABC()
  Dim iSelected As Integer
  iSelected = Len(Selection)
   iCount = 0
  Do While iCount < iSelected
   iCount = iCount + 1
    If Selection.Range.Characters.Last.Case = wdUpperCase = False And _
     Selection.Range.Characters.Last.Case = wdLowerCase = False Then
      Selection.moveend unit:=wdCharacter, Count:=iCount - 1
      MsgBox "Not all letters"
      Exit Sub
    End If
    Selection.moveend unit:=wdCharacter, Count:=-1
  Selection.MoveRight unit:=wdCharacter, Count:=iSelected, Extend:=wdExtend
  MsgBox "All letters"
End Sub

All it does is check the final character in the selection, then shrink the selection by one character and check again, until it either runs into something that's not upper or lower case (i.e., not a letter)—in which case it reselects the characters it's deselected and reports that the selection is "Not all letters"—or until it runs out of things to check, in which case it reselects the whole lot and reports that the selection is indeed "All letters." (Presumably, in actual use, it would make a Boolean true or false. I didn't ask what it was wanted for.)

Anyways, that's me lot. As ever, I hope this will be of help to somebody.

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