R is for Roy G Biv

What the… I hear you say in the U.K. Roy G Biv?? What on earth is that??

But everyone in the U.S. (I bet) knows exactly what this is. Yet we have lived here for 8 years now and I only found out about this phrase YESTERDAY! It came about like this:

Child 3 and I were driving along in the car at about 5.30pm. The wintery sun was setting up ahead and there was a lovely range of colours on show that child 3 said “made the whole sky look like a rainbow”. And then she asked me if I thought the rainbow included indigo and violet or “just purple”.

This was the moment I discovered that when we lived in Canada between 2008 and 2010, so Child 3 was aged between 3 and 5, she was taught that the colours of the rainbow were… wait for it… (and feel free to sing this in your head to the tune of twinkle twinkle little star)

“Red and Orange, Green and Blue, Shiny Yellow, Purple too.”


Well, I was shocked. I mean that’s just wrong. Am I right? I am.

Because as everyone in Britain knows, the colours of the rainbow can be remembered using the mnemonic Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain. In other words red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet. In my mind, the Richard of York referred to here was always this guy:

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This is Richard III (who I have always liked btw. I named a hamster after him once – Richard III the last Plantagenet King. We called him Plantagenet for short) who was the King of England from 1483 to 1485 when he was killed at the Battle of Bosworth Field. I love Richard III, I’ll admit. From Shakespeare’s play to Sharon Penman’s fantastic historical novel The Sunne in Splendour and on to Josephine Tey’s crime story The Daughter of Time, Richard III is a very interesting person to know about. When I was pregnant with Child 3 we even used to say if she was a boy we’d call her Richard because she’d be Richard III. But this morning, I’ve just read that he IS NOT the Richard of York in the rainbow mnemonic.

According to The History Girls blog, the Richard of York of rainbow fame was in fact Richard III’s father, also Richard, who was never a King himself, despite being the father of both Edward IV and Richard III. Gosh, those Wars of the Roses were complicated. Many battles were fought and Richard never did come out on top. He died in 1460 and since he certainly battled in vain, I’m drawn to believe he IS the right Richard remembered in the rainbow thingy.

I hope readers will take a look at the History Girls blog post (link above). I enjoyed it very much, especially the comments section where it was suggested that another version of the British rainbow mnemonic was Richard Of York Got Boiled in Vinegar! Probably this is significantly less historically accurate than the way I learned it, but it is definitely fun and memorable which (and, yes, I am finally back on my transatlantic track here) is a lot more than can be said for Roy G Biv.

Back to the car journey last night.

After Child 3 stunned me with her Canada rainbow revelation, I obviously had to check what she had been taught after we imported her to the States at the tender, sponge-like learning age of 5. And that’s when she told me about Roy G Biv as the way she remembers Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet.

I feel it is important to note on a language-type bloggy that Roy G Biv is an acronym and not a mnemonic, even though it serves the same purpose. There is nothing wrong with a good acronym, I don’t suppose, and at the very least it does at least include indigo and violet rather than the catch-all purple at play in Canada (at least according to Child 3).

But Roy G Biv? Really? I am generally firm in believing that American English is as good as British English and that all the differences between the two are wonderful and interesting, but Roy G Biv?

No. Give me Richard every time.



A is for Aluminum

On Tuesday Child 2 found something I said so amusing that he had to get his phone out and record me. Seriously, that’s just wrong. Isn’t it??

Anyway the word in question, as you may have guessed, was Aluminum, because in Britain its not Aluminum, its Aluminium.

To be clear:

US English – Aluminum – pronounced Aloominum

UK English – Aluminium – pronounced Al-you-min-eum

For the record I can tell you that after you’ve repeated it 20 times for the entertainment of your 13 year old, you can no longer pronounce either right and may well wish you’d wish you had not been born.

So why this difference in spelling and pronunciation for the 13th Element of the periodic table? Well I did a little research and for a while I thought that the element was first identified at the beginning of nineteenth century by this man, Humphry Davy:


So I read a bit more about Humphry Davy and found out he (maybe) invented the Davy Lamp (which I remember learning about at school) and also that he was addicted to laughing gas (which wasn’t on the curriculum, sadly). Also sadly though, it turned out he didn’t discover aluminium/aluminum and the website I read that on was wrong. That’s because this man, Hans Christian Orsted, discovered it instead:


You can just tell by looking at him that he wasn’t addicted to anything, can’t you? Although he did write poetry, so perhaps I’m wrong.

After all that, I have failed thus far to shed any real light on the aluminum/aluminium difference, beyond the common, post-Independence divergence of the language. But I did get a giggle in a thread of comments I read on the About.com chemistry page on Aluminum which I have a snapshot of here, just to show that squabbles over US/UK language differences are alive and well on the good-old internet:

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L is for Letterman

Some days – not everyday – it’s all a bit like living in a movie. Normally I feel this way when people start talking about their country club membership (think Caddyshack) or proms and homecoming (think Grease, Back to the Future, Peggy Sue got married etc etc). But this weekend, Child 1 brought home this:


It’s a furry letter. About 8 inches tall. And all I could think of was this:


See that jacket Emilio Estavez is wearing? That’s a letterman jacket and above that, is the furry letter that Child 1 has brought home because he’s on the school swim team. Here is what Wikipedia has to tell me about Letter jackets with some my comments…

“Letter jackets are almost never purchased before a student has earned a letter. (What the?? Now I have to buy the jacket??) In schools where only varsity letters are awarded this is usually the practice in a student’s junior or senior year. (No idea what THAT means!) Recently, however, many student athletes have been awarded letters during their sophomore and sometimes freshman year, (Yes! He’s a freshman. This bit applies to me) leading to the need for a jacket much sooner. (Oh Marvellous! – said with heavy sarcasm) Still, the actual jacket isn’t usually purchased until the sophomore year at least. (Wait… what?) In schools where junior varsity letters are awarded, (and how do I know about that??) the jacket may be purchased by junior varsity letter recipients, though the letter is placed just above the left pocket, leaving space for a future varsity letter.” (Seriously? This is way too complicated. It’s a minefield!!)

For those who want to know (and I can’t imagine there are many of you) Child 1 has informed me that at his school – the name of which begins with the letter U – if you are on the American Football team, you get given the jacket in your Junior Year (second last year at school) with the letter already on it. This is good. No sewing or purchasing required. On the other hand, he also said that the boys are given the jacket at the end of year banquet and – wait for it – each boy’s mother gets up and puts the jacket on their son!!! Oh my. I can barely wait. Already gritting my teeth over it.

Funny side note. Last night there was an advert (commercial) on the TV where they played “Don’t You forget About Me” by Simple Minds. “Oh!” pipes up Child 3. “That’s from that movie – The Breakfast Bunch” Aaah. Our own little Mrs Malaprop 😉

L is for Lip Dub

Oh my, I feel old! I have toyed with not posting this as I did find a lip dub made by a college in the UK on YouTube, but that was only one. Here, it looks like every high school does one. What is it? Well it’s a lip-syncing video made by high school kids on a grand scale. The key common factors seem to me – in the poll of three lip dub’s I have just managed to watch (although I only made it through all of one of them and that was the one Child 1 was in so I felt somewhat obliged to view it all) – to be as follows:

  1. Whole school participation – already I’m thinking this is a massive waste of time when kids could actually be learning something.
  2. All the chosen ones – those that actually lip sync, rather than the hoi polloi lining the walls or doing stuff – have to walk backwards. That’s practically dangerous.
  3. The stuff they do. Apart from the lip sync-ers, there seems to be a heavy emphasis on cheer-leading cheering and football players looking manly. Quite a lot of balls get thrown. Mr T says he likes the school band, (so we are BOTH getting old, clearly) but where are the chemistry labs?? This is a school people!!
  4. Dodgy camerawork. I can only imagine the fall-out after this. In the ones I’ve seen the camera flies past hoards of desperate looking teenagers, all consumed with hand clenching excitement at being in this video. How many hopes and hearts across the land are crushed each year when these poor kids find out that they are a) barely in focus, b) grinning inanely or c) that they just bent down to tie their shoe at the wrong moment and missed being in the Lip Dub altogether. No. It’s just too painful thinking of all those young dreams being shattered.
  5. Littering. In my sample, again, admittedly small, there was a lot of little bits of paper being thrown over heads. What’s that all about? And who had to clear it up, eh?
  6. Apart from that it’s great 😉 School spirit! Yee ha. Yay. etc.

If I haven’t put off all right-thinking people already, here is the Lip Dub for Child 1’s school this year. Given that it is another seven years before Child 3 finishes high school (known as graduating in these here parts) I don’t think this is the last lip dub I’ll get to enjoy….