Lexicon of love
It's not always easy to understand teenagers these days; they seem to speak a language all their own. So, it might interest you to know of a project started by a school teacher called Tim Woods back in 2005 which has just been made public. Woods takes up the story: "One day, in a lesson, I asked this girl from Essex a question. She answered it, but I only partly understood her. So we took the class in a different direction and wrote some words on the board and just talked about them for a while. As a teacher, that was a great moment for me. The students took over and it was fun for all of us." And so The London Slang Dictionary, an attempt to catalogue the language of young people in inner London, was born. Copies of the dictionary cost £5.99 from timwoods.org should you need help in getting down with the kids. Sadly, there is currently nothing available to help you get back up again if your knees are a bit "crutterz" (mashed up, worn out, as in "that car is crutterz").
The weight of expectation
We've all watched TV programmes and films and concluded they "didn't live up to the hype", and now it seems there is a scientific reason to explain why that often seems to be the case. According to a study about to be published in Administrative Science Quarterly, books rate more negatively after winning awards. Researchers analysed thousands of reader reviews and – according to Amanda Sharkey of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business – concluded that "winning a prestigious prize in the literary world seems to go hand in hand with a sharp reduction in ratings". The findings could, the study concludes, be a result of the fact that after winning a major award, a larger sampling of readers are drawn to a particular book when they may not have any personal interest in its subject matter. The paper is being published with the title "The Paradox of Publicity", and researchers agree that the results are likely to apply to other media. What impact these findings will have on the career of Ellie Goulding is anybody's guess.
Those of a sensitive disposition, look away now. My man in LA reports on a new craze for those seeking the elixir of youth: apparently Hollywood is turning its back on Botox and heading to places such as China and Slovakia for regenerative stem cell injections. One person who has already had the treatment is the self-proclaimed "world's first supermodel" and former I'm a Celebrity … star, Janice Dickinson. Somewhat alarmingly, Dickinson, 59, was only too happy to tell my man about some of the benefits. "It's not just your skin that tightens and looks younger," she says, "you get your libido back. With my BF, Rocky [her fiancé Dr Robert Gerner], I've been enjoying more sex than ever. We're hopping around like twentysomethings." Too. Much. Information.
Think outside the box
You might have seen the news last week about Karen Lloyd, the "latte loving mum" who was buried in a Costa Coffee-style coffin. Among the many raised eyebrows at the story, two belonged to Ursula Williams, who has worked for a company called Crazy Coffins for nearly 20 years. "It must be the first time a novelty coffin hasn't been one of ours," she says, before pointing out that the Costa effort was rather simpler than many of the jobs the company she works for, ahem, undertakes. "We're delighted that other people are beginning to wake up to the idea," Williams adds. "We started in the 1990s and since then we've had requests for everything from a builders' skip to a hairdresser who wanted a denim coffin with scissors in the pocket. As for the cost, that depends on how complex the product is to make. "A Rolls-Royce shape with lots of curves, for example," says Williams, "will cost about £5,000." Money well spent? Well, you can't take it with you ….
As you might have seen, Martin and Lisa Price, of Walsall, have decided to bring up their son, who is about to turn two, according to gender-neutral principles. What this means is that he is encouraged to play with dolls, walks around the house in either jeans or a pink tutu as the mood takes him, and paints his fingernails with glittery polish. No surprises there – as anyone who has ever looked after a toddler will know, young children have no real idea of gender politics and will happily cross the social divides that will later be imposed upon them. But one question does arise, and call me a cynic if you like: if Martin and Lisa really did want to bring their son up with no particular gender assigned to him, why did they call him Max when there are so many unisex boys' and girls' names available?
And talking of parenting, regular readers of this column might remember the revelation (Out There, 12 January) that in spite of having written a gazillion articles about the trials and tribulations of parenting, journalist Esther Walker and her husband, Giles Coren, were quietly advertising for a nanny. No problem with that, except the ad was spotted in the same week that Walker had written in the Daily Mail: "Please don't think I am asking for help with my life or asking for anything about it to change." And guess what? Now that a few weeks have passed, Walker has decided to come clean in the form of this week's sensitive and touching coverline: "I've hired a nanny because I'm bored by my children".
For no rhyme or reason
Another in an increasingly regular series of limericks based on recent events:
As the arguments round us are swirling
About keeping the pound up in Stirling
There has been little thought
To what happens in sport
And our losses in tennis and curling