Chess category

Photo credit: Rob Roy.
Used under this licence.

In response to Graham Pointon’s query about solutions to chess problems on this site, I have created a new category for chess. I think I have now put a solution in the comments to all the relevant posts. Please let me know if you come across any I have missed.

A new look

Some of you may have noticed that the text formatting of this blog has been awry in the past few days. I have no idea why. I decided not to try to sort it out, but to update the theme of the blog. I hope everything is clear and legible for you all.

And before anyone suggests it, no I have not got a new look.

The image is in the public domain

Braille IPA

The image above shows the final words of the North Wind and the Sun in Braille IPA. The version is that for North American English from the IPA Handbook. In “inkform” it reads:

ˈstɹɑŋɡɚ əv ðə ˈtu

This post was prompted by an enquiry from a colleague in Spain, who will have a visually impaired student in the next academic year. If anyone out there has experience of using Braille IPA, or has any useful advice for my colleague, please let me know and I will pass the information on.

If you are interested, there is a PDF document which details the Braille encoding of IPA symbols. It can be found here.


This is going to be a tangled tale, which connects blackberries, a jazz singer, smoke and hares and rabbits.

To me the word mooch (muːtʃ) means to loaf about in a bored manner. However, it appears to have another meaning which is a bit difficult to connect to the first. The word can also mean ‘to scrounge’, ‘to sponge off people’. I assume this is the meaning intended in the song Minnie the Moocher by the US jazzman Cab Calloway.

A third meaning is ‘to play truant’ and this appears to be connected to a now rare word mitch. One of the meanings of this, according to the OED, is To shrink or retire from view; to lurk out of sight; to skulk. This is, I suppose, not too far from the loaf about meaning I started with. The OED says: Apparently < Anglo-Norman muscer, muscier, mucer, mucier, muscher and Old French mucier…

The next twist in the path involves the word meuse (mjuːs or mjuːz), OED: A gap in a fence or hedge through which hares, rabbits, etc., pass, esp. as a means of escape; This apparently is thought to derive ultimately from an unattested Celtic form which gave rise to Irish múch and Welsh mwg, both meaning ‘smoke’, but I for one fail to see the semantic connection.

Ah, and the blackberries. An extended meaning of the ‘play truant’ sense is to bunk off from school in order to pick blackberries. Wright’s English Dialect Dictionary gives the meaning ‘a blackberry’, attested in Gloucestershire and Devon.