FLAT EARTH

That figures

What do we learn about modern attitudes from this news? According to a national survey in the US, a man's income is the chief consideration for women choosing a potential husband, ahead of his physical attractiveness, education or line of work.

That may only appear to confirm old prejudices, but it turns out that money is also important to men, coming second after looks. Nor is it simply a matter of opinion - men and women who are satisfied with their partner's financial contribution are happier in their relationships and stay together longer.

So, guys, consider the figures as well as her figure. The message for women appears even more straightforward - find that alpha male! But sadly it is not that simple. Another survey shows that high-testosterone "Master of the Universe" types, typically the big-income earners, tend to be more unhappy than less driven, low-testosterone men once they reach middle age. The higher the testosterone level, the more aggressive men are, and the more likely to alienate wives and friends, ending up in many cases confused, pathetic and alone.

So what's a girl to do? Find yourself a man who is rich, gentle and nice. It's scientifically proven. But you will have to be quick (not to mention good-looking and not too poor).

Slip of the tongue

Instead of bringing the Russian bear to its knees, in the new world order the Royal Navy finds itself rescuing Montserratians. But old pronunciation dies hard: the Navy, according to our man in the wardroom, have been calling the hapless Caribbean islanders "Monster Russians". The dwindling population of Montserrat might prefer that, however, to being called "Monster Rats", as they are in some quarters of British officialdom. The Navy would also like it to be known that HMS Liverpool, which is standing off the island, is a destroyer: the media keep referring to it as a frigate. Maybe the correct designation seems inappropriate for a humanitarian operation, or it could be that it sounds foolish in the vicinity of a volcano with more firepower than the Navy could ever muster.

Canada-speak

There is a move afoot to classify the English spoken in Quebec as a regional dialect. The Guide to Canadian English Usage, published by Oxford University Press, points out that French words are creeping into the conversation of the English-speaking minority, such as depanneur (convenience store) and poutine (chips with gravy, apparently).

What the authors don't tell us is whether this has reversed the tide of English - or American - words in use by French speakers in Canada, where you regularly hear comments such as: "Mon goddamn fender est bent encore." My introduction to this dialect came in the men's loo in the CN Tower in Toronto, where I overheard two French Canadians discussing a third. "Tu connais ce Jean-Francois?" asked one. "Oui," said the other. "Quel asshole."

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