Daily catch-up: old London, gendered toys and a skirmish over pedantry

All you really need to know. Plus the real meaning of ‘American Pie’

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The Independent Online

1. The Millwall and Island Omnibus sits outside West India Dock Station, 1910. Another lovely photograph of old London from The East End via Sir William Davenant.

2. Yesterday I did the Top 30 Characters You Never See, so I haven’t had a chance to catch up on the rest of The Independent on Sunday.

But first, a footnote on Top 10 Singles Longer Than Six Minutes, which featured the Sunday before. One single that wasn’t included was “American Pie”, because it was split into two four-minute parts on the A and B sides. Last week Don McLean put the notes and drafts of the lyrics up for sale, which prompted Tony Paley to recall the time McLean was asked the meaning of “American Pie”:

“It means I never I have to work again.”

3. My column in The Independent on Sunday was on David Cameron’s unrecognised achievement in holding his party together on Europe, which may be for nothing because of his bad luck in becoming the poshest Conservative leader since Alec Douglas-Home at a time of economic stringency.

However, our ComRes opinion poll suggested that, despite Cameron’s poshness, the voters are evenly divided on whether he or Ed Miliband would be “more effective at cracking down on tax avoidance and evasion”.

Although I thought the most interesting finding was that women are opposed to gendered marketing of toys (by 52 per cent to 28 per cent), while men are in favour (by 39 per cent to 36 per cent).

4. Also in the Independent on Sunday magazine, I had an exchange with Oliver Kamm about his new book, Accidence Will Happen: A Non-Pedantic Guide to English Usage. He says go right ahead and write “alright”, “bored of” and “between you and I”; your writing will be better for it. I beg to differ. When I accused him of inconsistency, he replied: “I don’t claim to be consistent: I claim to be right.”

5. Interesting analysis from the British Election Study on relative impacts of leaders. It confirms that David Cameron and Nigel Farage are assets to their parties, and suggests that this may lift their parties’ support in an election campaign that gives them prominence. Thanks to Rob Ford. 

6. And finally, thanks to Moose Allain for this:

“I go out of my way to be diverting.”

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