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C a p p e l e n Il l u str a sj o n: Ing e r D a l e


D a m m s

t i d s s k r i f t

f o r

e n g e l s k l æ r e r e


Leder Denne utgaven av fagbladet står i ettertankens tegn. Vi innleder med Robert Mikkelsens analyse av den spennende amerikanske valgkampen og resultatet av denne. Mange av dere har forhåpentligvis hatt nytte av Roberts «Election Watch» på nettstedet til Access to English: Social Studies denne høsten, og som vanlig vil også artikkelen hans i dette bladet legges ut på nettstedet som en «Access Update»-ressurs for lærere og elever. Et annerledes og spennende perspektiv på amerikansk politikk tas opp i Therese Holms artikkel «Vote for my husband!» – en sammenlikning av Michelle Obama og Ann Romneys taler til The National Conventions. De to kvinnene er i samme situasjon: De skal promotere sin ektemann slik at han får flest mulig stemmer i presidentvalget. Hvilke emner tar de opp, og hvilke retoriske virkemidler bruker de?

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Vi avslutter med nok et tilbakeblikk, denne gang på en bok som har blitt en liten klassiker innenfor sjangeren humoristisk reiseskildring, nemlig Bill Brysons Notes from a Small Island. David O’Gorman har humret seg gjennom et gjensyn med boka, og han spør seg om den fortsatt kan gi oss innsikt i det britiske samfunnet nesten 20 år etter at den først kom ut.

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God lesning!

Vocabulary Work: Collocations and the Corpus by Hilde Hasselgård, Universitetet i Oslo


“Vote for my husband!” by Therese Holm, Sandefjord vgs


I året vi snart har tilbakelagt har også Storbritannia, den andre tradisjonelle stormakten innenfor den engelskspråklige verden, vært i medienes søkelys. Richard Peel ser tilbake på sommerens store idrettsbegivenhet, de olympiske leker i London, og gir oss noen svar på hvorfor disse lekene skapte så mye begeistring og blir sett på som en stor suksess. Politikk og samfunnsliv dekkes regelmessig i dette fagbladet, men vi glemmer ikke det språklige aspektet ved engelskfaget. Ikke minst er vokabulartrening viktig, og Hilde Hasselgård gir oss et innblikk i «collocations» og noen gode råd om hvordan man kan jobbe med dette temaet.

The Winner by Robert Mikkelsen, Høgskolen i Østfold

The Games are over; long live the Games! by Richard Hugh Peel

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Read It! by David O’Gorman

Denne og alle tidligere utgaver av bladet er tilgjengelig i bla-i-bok-format på nettet. Se f. eks. lærersidene på passage. eller Der finner du også en oversikt over innholdet i alle utgavene.

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Ansvarlig redaktør: Birger Nicolaysen

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Kirsten Aadahl

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President Barack Obama hugs his daughters Malia (R) and Sasha as First Lady Michelle Obama looks on during his election night victory rally in Chicago, November 7, 2012 (ŠNTB scanpix)


Winner by Robert Mikkelsen

On the evening of November 6, 2012, Barack Hussein Obama once again stepped out onto a stage in Chicago to give his victory speech as the winner of the office of the President of the United States of America. He had again beaten the odds against him, just as he had four years earlier. Not only had he won, but his victory had been unexpectedly large. The media and the nation had expected a much closer race. In the end he was elected with 334 electoral votes to Mitt Romney’s 206, many more than the 270 he had needed (see Access to English: Social Studies, p. 207, “The Electoral College”). In some ways, however, these impressive figures masked a much tougher and closer fight for the White House than during his first campaign in 2008. There were many difficult obstacles to be overcome before he could stand on that stage once more.

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Obstacles to Victory First of all, Obama could no longer run as the unknown outsider. Four years before he had cast himself as the candidate of hope and change. He had promised to shake up the establishment in Washington and bring new political unity after years of bitter divisions between Republicans and Democrats. By 2012, he was himself at the very center of the Washington establishment and those divisions were, if anything, even deeper. Although he could blame this on the Republicans’ unwavering opposition to his policies, there was no denying that the unity he had wished to create had failed to appear. Second, the terrific enthusiasm and optimism Obama had created among his supporters in 2008 had been dampened by four years of practical governing and compromise. Many who had voted for him had hoped that he would quickly end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, close the hated prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, pass legislation to help the poor and generally clean up the mess in which they believed the Republicans under George W. Bush had left the country. Instead, the withdrawal from Iraq took years, the war in Afghanistan went on, Guantanamo Bay remained open and the number of peo-

ple living in poverty actually went up. Many disillusioned Democratic voters did not show up at the polls for the Congressional elections of 2010. As a result, the Republicans gained a strong majority in the House of Representative which they immediately used to attack the President’s policies even more aggressively (see Access Update: “The Perfect Slosh”). But by far the most serious obstacle to Obama’s reelection was the deep economic crisis that he had inherited when coming into office. In 2007 the country had been plunged into the steepest economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s. The banking system collapsed. Credit dried up. People lost their homes and jobs. Middle class voters who had supported Obama were hit hard. The poor were hit even harder. By 2009 the unemployment rate soared to more than 10% and stubbornly remained above 8% for years (see Access Update: “Where Did All The Money Go?”). Only one President in history – Franklin Delano Roosevelt – had ever been re-elected in the middle of such hard times. Americans vote their pocketbooks. The Path to Victory In order to win, Obama and his election team had to overcome these obstacles. For starters, in place of the calls for “hope” and “change” used so successfully as an outsider in 2008, the White House settled on the campaign slogan of “Forward!” This succinctly expressed the idea of continuing along the path Obama had put the country. The argument was that the policies were working. The wars were winding down. The economy was gradually improving. The poor had been helped by health care legislation that gave more than 20 million Americans coverage for the first time (See Access Update: “In Need of Treatment – American Health Care Reform”). Yes, it would take time and effort to pull America out of the deep hole in which the Republicans had left the country, but Obama was on the right path. “Have patience. We are moving forward,” was the message. Second, Obama’s campaign headquarters set about to try to syste-

matically recreate the coalition of voters that had brought them to power four years before. This had consisted of a large majority of voters in minority groups like Blacks, Latinos (of Latin American heritage) and Asians, as well as most women and a healthy proportion of well educated White NonLatinos voters (of European heritage). The big question was, could it be put together again or was it a one-timephenomenon created by Obama’s charismatic leadership in 2008? In place of the spontaneous enthusiasm of that election, the White House team turned to hard work on the ground. In key “swing states” that might have voted for either candidate, they set up two or three times the number of campaign offices on the local level as their Republican opponents. Each office was staffed by an “Obama for America” volunteer who acted as a coordinator for calls, for visits, for knocking on doors, for driving people to the polling stations, etc. More than 125 million voters were contacted directly – and not just any old voters. They were picked out by carefully sifting through mountains of data that had been compiled for years by Obama’s experts. As one reporter put it, “The power of this operation stunned [the Republicans] on election night, when they saw voters they never even knew existed turn out in places like Osceola County, Florida.” Finally, shortly after suffering defeat in the Congressional Elections in 2010, the President made a strategic decision. He resolved to turn his 2012 reelection campaign into a battle of values and visions, rather than a referendum on how good he was at handling the economy. He wanted to make voters realize that there was a stark choice to be made between his vision of the country and that of the Republicans. His basic point was that he and his fellow Democrats believed that government could be a positive force for the good of the nation, helping people and providing a basis for businesses and individuals to reach their goals. In contrast, Republicans were

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney concedes defeat November 7, 2012 in Boston, telling supporters that he has called US President Barack Obama to congratulate him on his victory (©NTB scanpix)

portrayed as believing that government was at best a necessary evil to be kept as small as possible so individuals could reach their goals with a minimum of state interference. Mitt Romney added to this contrast. When he became the Republicans’ presidential candidate, he repeatedly claimed that Obama wished to make the United States into a European-style state under the control of an over-powerful central government that would limit and stifle individual freedom. Whatever one thinks of this ideological conflict, shifting the focus from the weak economy to issues of political principle turned out to be to the advantage of Obama. The Victory Itself

1) The Size On November 6th Americans chose between these leaders and these very different visions of government. You know the results, but let’s look more closely at the numbers behind Obama’s victory. First, although it was a solid win, it was not as large or as clear a victory as that of 2008. In that year he had won 365 electoral votes compared to 334 in 2012. There was an even greater drop in his majority of the popular vote which fell from almost 10 million in 2008 to only a little over 3 million in 2012. In part this reflected the fact that fewer people went to vote

in 2012, but that in itself is a sign of less interest among American voters than in 2008. On the other hand, this election did not turn out to be the cliff-hanger the experts had predicted on the basis of pre-election polls. A majority of voters in the nation made it quite clear whom they wanted as president and what view of government they supported. But who exactly made up that majority?

2) The Coalition According to exit polls (people asked after voting), Obama’s campaign team did succeed in recreating the coalition that had brought him to power in 2008. Here are the numbers to back that up:

A quick look at these figures makes it clear that while Mitt Romney won the majority of white male voters over the age 45, Obama won a majority of virtually everyone else in the country. This reflects a basic and long term demographic shift in the population of the United States. Not only did Barack Obama become the first black president of the United States in 2008, he also became the first minority president. And he was reelected with that same minority support. It was large majorities among Blacks, Latinos, Asians, as well as women and the young, which put him over the top. 01

This promises a bright future for the Democratic Party because it is just

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Voter preference in 2012 (percentages) By Race White Black Latino Asian



Barack Obama

Mitt Romney

39 93 71 73

59 7 27 26

06 07 08 09 10 11

By Gender Men Women


45 55

52 44

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By Age 18–29 30–44 45–64 65 and older


60 52 47 44

37 45 51 56

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these minority groups with large numbers of young people which are growing the quickest. For example, in 2012 for the first time in American history the majority of children (50.4%) under the age of one were from minority backgrounds. At the same time, the number of Americans who are of white European heritage is actually shrinking. By 2042 they will no longer be a majority in the country. This is known as the “browning out” of America. Obama’s Democratic coalition seems to be the wave of the future.


The Impact of the Election Ironically, however, as important as the reelection of President Obama

may be for the future of politics in America, it has not changed the shortterm political situation on the ground. That is because the Republicans kept control of the House of Representatives in the election. This means that, if they wish, they can continue to block Obama’s policies as they have for the past two years. In that case we will get what is called political “gridlock” – things will stand still as each side blames the other for not being willing to make necessary compromises. This could theoretically last until the new Congressional elections in 2014.

getting the Democrats out of the White House. On the contrary, it seems to have split the country even more deeply and left the Republicans on what might be the wrong side of that divide. They will now have to ask themselves if they can afford to say no to the new majority which has backed Obama. In the long run, the voters who support the Republicans are getting fewer in number. Perhaps it is time for them to think about making compromises and mending bridges. After all, that’s politics.

On the other hand, years of Republican political opposition did not succeed in

Access Updates: see “News Archive” at


Working with Statistics


Look at the table for “Voter preference in 2012” on page 5 and answer the following questions:

Why can it be an advantage to be an “outsider” in American politics? Do you think it could be as much of an advantage in Norwegian politics? How are the two different?

2 Politics is often called “The art of the possible” – that is, getting some of what you can rather than all of what you want. Do you agree? Why might this cause people to feel disillusioned or disappointed in politics?


Which groups gave a majority of their votes to Obama?

2 Which groups gave a majority of their votes to Romney? 3 Which individual group gave the greatest percentage of its votes to one candidate?


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Repetition and rhythm are important parts of rhetoric. How does President Obama make use of them in the following excerpt from his victory speech in Chicago on November 6, 2012 (see Access to English: Social Studies, p. 415)?

4 According to this information, who would you expect the following to vote for? – a Latino woman – a white man

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America, I believe we can build on the progress we’ve made and continue to fight for new jobs and new opportunity and new security for the middle class. I believe we can keep the promise of our founders, the idea that if you’re willing to work hard, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from or what you look like or who you love. It doesn’t matter whether you’re black or white or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or young or old or rich or poor, able, disabled, gay or straight, you can make it here in America if you’re willing to try.

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I believe we can seize this future together because we are not as divided as our politics suggests. We’re not as cynical as the pundits believe. We are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions, and we remain more than a collection of red states and blue states. We are and forever will be the United States of America.

– a man under 45 – a black man – a woman over 65 – an Asian man – a man over 45

Vocabulary Work:

Collocations and the Corpus Collocations have been described as an important part of native speaker competence, and as both indispensable and problematic for learners of a foreign language. But what are collocations? How can we identify them? And what can we do with them? A simple definition of “collocation” is “two or more words that tend to occur in the vicinity of each other”. Collocations were first described by the British linguist J.R. Firth, who famously wrote that “you shall know a word by the company it keeps” (Firth, 1957). Knowing a word thus includes knowing the expressions it commonly occurs in as well as the meanings that a word acquires by being associated with others. Firth’s example is silly ass (referring to the animal by that name!), which is meant to illustrate not only that the two words often go together, but that the close association between these two words will colour

the meaning of ass even when it occurs on its own. In the context of teaching and learning a foreign language, both of these aspects of collocation are relevant. Knowing the most common contexts of a word is part of knowing the meaning of a word. To use another example, the word middle is most commonly found in the phrase in the middle of. Thus, if someone is asked to explain what middle means, it is likely that this expression will come up. Furthermore, this particular expression is quite fixed as regards the choice of prepositions and the article: it is not correct to

by Hilde Hasselgård Hilde Hasselgård is a professor of English language at the University of Oslo. Most of her work is within grammar and text linguistics and the comparison of Norwegian and English structures. Hasselgård has co-authored an English-Norwegian dictionary as well as several text books for the university level and upper secondary school.

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say *on the middle of (in contrast to Norwegian i midten/på midten) or *in a middle of. The importance of collocations for language learning and language production is evident from John Sinclair’s claim that “words appear to be chosen in pairs or groups” (1991). Words are not seen as independent items, but as part of prefabricated units. Words are not combined in arbitrary ways; most language choices are routinized rather than creative. This makes for fluent and idiomatic language production and greatly eases language interpretation. The problem for foreign language learners is that languages have different routines; typical word combinations in one language are not necessarily transferrable to another. Collocations, idioms and fixed expressions Collocations represent typical, common ways of expressing oneself. This is in contrast to what is known as “idioms”, which are typically non-literal, highly specialized phrases such as blow the whistle (meaning “raise an alarm”), at the drop of a hat (“immediately”), and hit the sack (“go to bed”). Idioms may need to be taught because their meaning is not transparent, but they are usually not very frequently used.

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So is a collocation the same thing as a fixed expression? The answer is “not entirely”. Collocations need not be entirely fixed. For example, the expression make a decision can be varied in different ways: by varying the form of the noun or the verb (make decisions, making/made a decision), by using the definite article (make the decision) or by inserting an adjective before the noun (make the wrong decision). In this case the “fixed” components of the collocation are the lexemes make and decision. We can of course also take decisions. However, a search in the huge Corpus of Contemporary American English (see below) shows that make is over 40 times more frequent than take in the vicinity of decision. This shows make to be a stronger collocate of decision. An important principle of collocation is that words acquire meaning from their context. Although make and take may be synonyms in the expressions make/take a decision, they are not in the expressions make an order and take an order. On the contrary, they refer to the complementary tasks of for instance a customer making an order and a shop assistant taking it. In most other contexts the meanings of make and take are not even related, for instance make some money vs. take some money. (See sample exercise 1.)

A big or a serious problem? Adjective + noun combinations It used to be the case that big was reserved for physical size and could not modify abstract nouns such as problem. However, nowadays the meaning of big seems to have become more general, and the phrase big problem is not uncommon. The choice of relatively synonymous adjectives to modify nouns is sometimes unpredictable. A familiar example is the different adjectives commonly used to describe good-looking men and women, such as handsome man and pretty woman, but usually not handsome woman or pretty man. Strong and powerful may be equally good – and also synonymous – in front of a noun such as engine, but in front of a noun such as woman or man, they mean different things. In yet other contexts only one of them is possible (or normal), as in front of coffee or tea, where only strong works. Other pairs of adjectives that are only sometimes synonyms are high/tall, little/small, strange/funny, clever/smart. In fact, very few “synonymous” adjectives can be used in all the same contexts with the same meaning. (See sample exercise 2.) Arts and crafts – or the order of nouns Many common phrases consist of two nouns co-ordinated by and, for example bacon and eggs. It can be argued that the order of the factors does not change the product. Eggs and bacon means the same thing, but it sounds odd, the same way as “bacon og egg” sounds odd in Norwegian. A phrase where the order does change the product is bed and breakfast, which obviously refers to a place where you can stay the night and get a morning meal. Breakfast and bed, however, does not refer to a unified concept, but to two discrete entities, the same way as tonic and gin is not a drink, and chips and fish is not a dish. Other common phrases in which the order of the nouns is relatively fixed are: food and drink, fruits and vegetables, goods and services, hands and feet, health and safety, hearts and minds, pen and paper, research and development, salt and pepper, shapes and sizes, theory and practice. In a few cases, one order suggests a technical term (health and safety, research and development) while the reverse order would only refer to two concepts. In others, such as fruits and vegetables, the reverse order is simply an unusual way to refer to the same two concepts. (See sample exercise 3.) How can we identify collocations? Since collocations are often a bit unpredictable and notoriously hard to pick up for foreign speakers of a language, we need good methods to identify the correct or common patterns. Native speakers learn collocations the same way they learn language in general, namely

by means of massive input. In foreign language learning, the input is far less massive, and intuition much less reliable. Therefore it is often helpful to consult dictionaries or corpora to get at the company that a word keeps. Dictionaries Modern dictionaries often give examples to show how a word is typically used. For instance the Cambridge Online Dictionary gives the following contexts for the adjective serious: a serious illness; There were no reports of serious injuries; The new tax regulations have landed some of the smaller companies in serious trouble; Drugs have become a serious problem in a lot of schools; This is a very serious offence; He’s been taken to hospital where his condition is described as serious but stable. These are good clues to common collocations of serious. Dictionaries also usually give information on prepositions that follow adjectives and verbs, as in the Macmillan Dictionary entry for different, where we find different from, different to and different in with examples to illustrate their use. Corpora While a dictionary illustrates word patterns that have been selected by a lexicographer, a corpus gives access to huge quantities of language data, thus allowing users to draw their own conclusions about language use. A corpus is a large, structured database of texts that has been compiled for use in linguistic research. Many corpora are publicly available. A valuable resource is found at, where corpora of both British and American English can be accessed. Users need to register after a few searches, but this is free of charge and does not generate spam email. The corpus we have used here for exemplification is the Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA), which is huge and keeps being added to. At the time of writing (October 2012) it totals 450 million words of running text. There are helpful instructions on how to use the corpus on the corpus page itself, but here are some basic steps to get started: x

x x

Go to and select the Corpus of Contemporary American English. Log in (or register as a user). Type a word or phrase in the box after WORD(S). Click on the Search button. The word/ phrase will appear in the window to the right with a number next to it, which represents the number of times the word/phrase occurs in the corpus. By clicking on the word(s),



we get to the sentences in the corpus that contain the word(s). We can search for a phrase with an unspecified item by using an asterisk (*) as a “wildcard”, i.e. instead of the missing word. The search result will be a list of all the alternative expressions found with their frequencies. (See the example of a piece of * below.) We can search for all inflectional forms of a word by putting it in square brackets. For example, a search for [make] will return make, makes, made, making, with frequencies for each form.

On the search page of the COCA corpus there is a button saying “Collocates”. This option is interesting for finding out about the company of words. Searching for the word string and clicking the Collocates button, we get a list of words that occur up to four words before or after string in the corpus. The five most frequent ones are quartet, theory, together, beans and tied. These give evidence of at least four different meanings of string, which can be further explored. We can also find collocations in the corpus by searching for a part of them, for example a piece of *. (The asterisk stands for an unspecified word.) The ten most frequent nouns to follow a piece of turn out to be paper, cake, music, land, wood, bread, meat, furniture, fruit, and legislation. This information can be useful for learning expressions with a piece of but also for more advanced purposes, such as studying the meaning

of a piece of in the different collocations. For example piece can be translated by the Norwegian stykke in some of the expressions, but not in all. A piece of cake (unlike a piece of bread) can have a literal or a metaphorical meaning, as we can see from the corpus examples.

References Firth, J.R. 1957. A synopsis of linguistic theory. Studies in linguistic analysis, 1-31. Reprinted in F.R. Palmer (ed.). 1968. Selected Papers of J.R. Firth 1952-59. London: Longman, 168-205.

Another reason why a large corpus is so useful in working with collocations is that frequency matters. In the example of make or take a decision, we found that one was hugely more frequent than the other. The sheer frequency of make a decision tells us that this alternative is favoured; it is the most idiomatic choice. In a teaching context this information is of course extremely helpful.

Nesselhauf, Nadja. 2003. The Use of Collocations by Advanced Learners of English and Some Implications for Teaching. Applied Linguistics 24 (2): 223-242.

The sample exercises in this article can thus be most easily solved by using a corpus to test out the different combinations. The majority solution usually wins. Alternatively, we can study corpus examples to identify meaning differences, as in the case of a piece of cake. Concluding remarks The observation that “words appear to be chosen in pairs or groups” is crucial for the way we deal with vocabulary learning: it makes mastery of collocations vital to both the production and the interpretation of language. In our first language, we acquire the collocational patterns of words naturally. In a second or foreign language, the procedure often has to be a more conscious effort. Both dictionaries and corpora are of great assistance in making that effort.

Sinclair, John. 1991. Corpus – Concordance – Collocation. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Dictionaries Cambridge Dictionaries Online: Macmillan Dictionary: Relevant URLs Advanced collocations: vocabulary/collocations-advanced.htm A guide to learning English, Collocation: colloc.htm Corpus of Contemporary American English (and other corpora):

Sample exercise 1:

Sample exercise 2:

MAKE, TAKE or both? (If both are possible, do they mean the same?)

The two adjectives given at the beginning of each line below mean approximately the same thing. Which one is the best combination with each of the nouns that follow them? If both can be used, do the combinations mean the same thing? (Example: strong/powerful – woman. Both strong woman and powerful woman are OK, but do not mean the same thing: a strong woman is physically strong while a powerful woman has power over other people.)

__________ a risk

__________ a suggestion

__________ a comment

__________ a break

__________ my day

__________ a chance

__________ a close look

__________ a seat

__________ the point

__________ a left turn

1. High/tall – boy, tree, mountain, price, voice, door, building 2. Clever/smart – girl, idea, solution, hands, phone, move 3. Kind/friendly – man, permission, smile, offer, heart, word 4. Strange/funny – character, joke, animal, town, idea, movie 5. Serious/severe – illness, problem, expression, injury, pressure, penalty, crime, answer

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Sample exercise 3:

Connect the two nouns in each pair with and in the order that is most natural or common. Example: services / goods Ź goods and services.















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“Vote for my The ultimate nightmare: You are standing before a podium looking out on to a sea of people. A microphone in front of you picks up your every word, camera lenses are pointing towards you from every angle, ready to capture every gesture you make. Millions of viewers are watching you, waiting for you to convince them to vote for your husband as the next American president. How can you persuade them?

by Therese Holm, Sandefjord vgs


In the preparations for a presidential election the presidential candidates give many speeches in which they explain their visions and the plans they wish to implement should they be elected President of the USA. Other

party members, previous presidents and current celebrities will also speak out to support their candidate. In this year’s presidential campaign, however, the speeches of two women attracted more attention than many of the other speeches combined. In August and September of 2012 Michelle Obama and Ann Romney addressed, respectively, the

Democratic and the Republican National Conventions. Each woman had the same goal: To obtain more votes for their husband in the presidential election in November. So, what do you say to get more voters on your husband’s side? In this article we shall compare and contrast the speeches the two women made to see how they argue to convince the audience to give their vote to either Barack Obama

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Allusion: Quoting directly from another known source, for example the Bible or another famous speech (“I have a dream …”).

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Alliteration: The repetition of a consonant sound in two or more neighbouring words. For example: “dignity and decency”, “a desperate decade of decline”.

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Antithesis: Explaining what you do NOT want to do, often followed by what you do want to do. For example: “I do not want to wait until everyone is ready – the change must come now”. False dilemmas: When the speaker offers a limited number of options, while in reality more options are available. For example: “Either we cut the social programs or we live with a huge deficit, and we cannot live with a huge deficit!”

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Hypophora: When the speaker poses a question and answers it herself. For example: “What is the solution? The solution is to create more jobs!” Juxtaposition: When two contrasting elements are put together for rhetorical effect. For example: “heaven and hell”, “through fire and ice”, “young and old”, “weak and strong”. Parallelism: Repeating parts of a sentence within the same

sentence for rhetorical effect. For example: “If anyone wonders why you should leave your sofa, why you should go to the polling station and why you should vote …” Repetition: Repeating parts of or an entire sentence. Rhetorical question: A statement formulated as a question which does not require an answer. For example: “Are those the values that made our country great?” Tricolon: The use of three successive sentences, each about the same in length, but increasing in power. For example: “We will fight! We will kill! We will win!” Varied sentence length: Using sentences of different length to emphasize a point in the shorter sentence. For example: “This man is the hardest working man you will ever meet, with a dedication towards his work like no one else I have ever known. This is the man you need.” In addition to this, we often identify three ways of arguing in a nonfiction text: Ethos, pathos and logos. Ethos: When you argue using authority and credibility. Pathos: When you argue using feelings and moral certitude. Logos: When you argue using logic and reason.


or Mitt Romney. But first, let us look at some terminology and rhetorical devices that are useful when analysing speeches (see box, p. 10). Before you read on, take some time to read the transcripts of the two speeches, or watch them on YouTube. (Search for “Transcript/Video of Ann Romney’s speech at the Republican National Convention”, or “Transcript/ Video of Michelle Obama’s speech at the Democratic National Convention”.) Being able to correctly identify the rhetorical devices used is of course essential when it comes to analysing a speech. Just as important is being able to explain why the speaker has chosen to use the rhetorical devices, and what effect they have on the text. Moreover, it is necessary to look at how the speaker argues for her cause – and how the speaker tries to get her message across. Let us have a look at how Ann Romney and Michelle Obama try to convince the viewers to give their vote to their respective husbands. “I want to talk to you about love” Ann Romney starts her speech with an antithesis by telling the audience what she is not going to talk about: “I want to talk to you tonight not

about politics and not about party”. This makes Romney’s agenda rather different from the other speeches at the national convention, which usually only revolve around politics and party. She continues: “Tonight I want to talk to you about love”, a sentence which signals that the tone of this speech will be different and probably more personal than other speeches the audience has heard during the convention. Michelle Obama chooses to start her speech by reminding the audience of her authority, using ethos when she says: “Over the past few years as First Lady, I have had the extraordinary privilege of traveling all across this country”. She then quickly resorts to pathos, when she says that everywhere she has been she has “seen the very best of the American spirit”, and continues by giving examples of this spirit through a series of tricolons, starting with the words “I have seen it in …”. This structure is rather similar to Romney’s speech, where her approach is similar to a tricolon, starting with the words “I want to talk to you about …”. Both women thus choose to start their speech by talking about their feelings, but while Obama gives examples of her admiration for

Ann Romney (L) speaking at the Republican National Convention (RNC) at the Tampa Bay Times Forum in Tampa, Florida, on August 28, 2012, and Michelle Obama (R) delivering a speech at the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, North Carolina, on September 4, 2012 on the first day of the Democratic National Convention (©NTB scanpix)

the American spirit, Romney focuses more on the “one great thing that unites us” – love. “They are here among us tonight” The love that Romney talks about extends not only to the man she “met at a dance many years ago” or the love “we have for our children and our children’s children”, it extends to “those Americans, our brothers and sisters, who are going through difficult times”. She then continues to explain who “those Americans” are, and that “They are here among us tonight; they are here in neighbourhoods across Tampa and all across the USA”. This juxtaposition of “us” and “them” is interesting to note – one could ask whether the people in the audience at the convention feel that they belong in either category? When Obama gave her speech, some days later, she made a point out of stating that for Barack Obama, no such juxtaposition exists: “there is no such thing as ‘us’ and ‘them’”. She then continues: “he doesn’t care whether

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you’re a Democrat, a Republican or none of the above … he knows that we all love our country […] he’s always looking for the very best in everyone he meets”. While Romney expresses her sympathy for “those Americans” who are going through difficult times, placing herself outside that category, Obama talks about the people she meets every day, saying that “they make me proud… every day they remind me how blessed we are to live in the greatest nation on earth”. It seems that Romney wishes to express her sympathy for Americans going through a tough period; while Obama focuses on how proud Americans make her. And it is perhaps not surprising that the two speakers argue differently, given their positions. Obama, having been First Lady for four years, wants to express that her husband, the president, cares for the well-being of all Americans. He is, after all, everyone’s president, not just working for those who voted for him in the last election. Romney, on the other hand, wants to point out that things have not been easy for people during this last presidential period, partly because of the political decisions that have been made.

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“I’m not sure if men really understand this, but … ” Romney again turns to ethos when, like Obama, she says that she has been “all across the country for the past year and a half”. But instead of being impressed with the American people, as Obama was, Romney has “heard these stories of how hard it is to get ahead now”. And according to Romney, one group of the population has struggled more than others: women. If we listen carefully, she says, we could hear a “great collective sigh late at night, coming from Americans who are not sure how they will make it through another day”. She continues: “And if you listen carefully, you’ll hear the women sighing a little bit more than the men”, before asking the rhetorical question: “It‘s how it is, isn’t it?” For a second you may be tempted to believe that she is addressing all women of the nation, but in her next sentences she clarifies this: “It’s the moms of this nation […] who really hold this country together”, before adding another rhetorical question: “You know it’s true, don’t you?” The four last years may have been hard for many Americans, but according to Romney, the moms have had to struggle the most. Appealing to the moms with pathos through a series of

repetitive sentences starting with “You know”, she ends up singing the moms’ praise. Not only are the moms “the best of America” and “the hope of America”, she also uses a kind of false dilemma when she says “There would not be an America without you”. Having sung the moms’ praise, Romney wants to include all American women in her next sentence. She does this by creating a verbal barrier between men and women through this antithesis: “I’m not sure if men really understand this, but I don’t think there’s a woman in America who really expects her life to be easy”. This is an interesting sentence to interpret, as a number of questions arise: Does Romney think that American men expect their lives to be easy? Is that why men cannot understand how the women feel? Or is she trying to provoke the men listening to her speech by teasing them and challenging them? Is she trying to be coquettish towards the men and at the same time make the women who do not have children feel included? It is not entirely clear from the context what she is trying to do here. “A kindred spirit” Both Obama and Romney want the audience to get to know their husbands better. Therefore they spend a large part of the speech talking about their own and their husbands’ backgrounds, their values and what they stand for. Using pathos, a vivid language and numerous sensory details, the speakers share information about their husbands through a narrative which takes the listeners back to when the presidential candidates first met their future wives. “He was tall, laughed a lot, was nervous”, Ann Romney remembers. “He was a guy whose

proudest possession was a coffee table he’d found in a dumpster”, Michelle Obama reminiscences. Both speakers emphasize the beauty in not having a lot, but having love for one another. Romney’s remarks about being “very young, both still in college” when they got married, and then having to eat “lots of pasta and tuna fish” – presumably because it is a cheap meal – echoes Obama’s tricolonic statement about being “so young, so in love and so in debt”. Midway through the speeches, both women start to talk about their own and their husbands’ families, again using the narrative style, and emphasize how important the families have been for them. “I am the granddaughter of a Welsh coal miner”, Romney says, “who was determined that his kids get out of the mines”. “My father was a pump operator at the city water plant, and he was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis when I was young”, Obama tells the audience. “Mitt’s dad never graduated from college. Instead he became a carpenter”, Romney continues. “Barack was raised by a single mother who struggled to pay the bills, and by grandparents who stepped in when she needed help”, Obama says. Why all this talk about family background, one may wonder. Part of the reason could be to show the audience and the listeners that even though the two men in question now are in positions of power, it was not always so – hard work has paved the way. “Mitt Romney was not handed success”, his wife says, “He built it”. Similarly, Michelle Obama points out that “for Barack, success isn’t about how much money you make, it’s about the difference you make in people’s lives”.

Mitt Romney (L) embracing his wife Ann and President Barack Obama (R) embracing First Lady Michelle Obama at the conclusion of the final presidential debate, October 22, 2012 (©NTB scanpix)

Another reason for the narrative about family background, is that it helps explain how the two men were taught the values they carry with them today. These values are clearly stated through the use of alliteration – “family, faith and love of one’s fellow man”, says Romney, “dignity and decency”, says Obama. Finally, it gives the audience some images they are likely to remember after the speech is over. Romney’s pasta and tuna fish and Obama’s rusty car and too small shoes serve the same purpose: They show the audience that the presidential candidates are “real” people who have worked hard to get to where they are, and that they still remember where they came from. “No one will work harder” Towards the end of the speeches, after having used the narrative style for some time, both speakers change tactics and employ a number of repetitions to enhance their message. Obama does this when she lists several decisions her husband has made in the past four years, using “That’s why…” as the repeating phrase. She does the same a bit later in the speech, when she explains her love for her husband. “I love that...” she says, repeating the phrase three times. And at the end of the speech, she repeats the phrase “if I / we want” within the same sentence, thus creating parallelism. Romney is also fond of repetitions, and several places in the speech she repeats a phrase three times over. “No one will…” she says, hammering the message into the audience in short sentences. A bit later she assures the listeners that “This man will not fail. This man will not let us down. This man will lift up America”. Since the first two sentences here are examples of

antithesis, the third becomes even more powerful, when she says what this man will do, rather than what he will not do. Towards the very end of her speech, Romney’s sentences become shorter and more concentrated: “This is our country. This is our future. These are our children and grandchildren. You can trust Mitt. He loves America”. These sentences are a strong contrast to the narrative style she uses when she talks about their families and backgrounds – and serve a different purpose, of course. While the talk about family background creates an image of her husband that the voters can relate to, the last part of the speech is more about selling the political message “vote for my husband”. “My most important title is still mom-in-chief” There are many similarities between the two speeches we have examined here. The goal, the content, the structure, the way the two speakers talk about their backgrounds with much pathos, even the values they say their husbands represent, seem to be the same. But one woman is trying to get her husband elected, while the other is trying to get her husband re-elected. Therefore Michelle Obama has to focus more on the positive changes she feels her husband has contributed to in the past four years, while Ann Romney has to point out that the past four years have been hard for many voters with a Democrat in the White House. Romney is trying to connect with the moms of America by spending a fair bit of her speech singing their praises. Obama, as First Lady, has to address all Americans in her speech – and chooses to do so by focusing on how proud she is of the American spirit. But she also emphasizes what an honour and a privilege it is to serve as First Lady – even if being a mom is still her most important job.

It is not really surprising that Romney has a biblical allusion in her speech (“Give and it shall be given unto you”), while Obama mentions “a young preacher [who] could lift us to the mountaintop with his righteous dream”. Nor is it surprising that both women express very clearly what their role is: “I say all of this tonight not just as a First Lady … and not just as a wife”, Obama says, and continues: “My most important title is still mom-in-chief”. “I can only stand here tonight, as a wife, a mother, a grandmother, an American”, Romney says. Since her children are grown up and have children of their own, it is perhaps only natural that Romney feels that being a wife is her main role, while Obama, who has two young daughters, feels that being a mom is her number one priority. The love and respect both women feel for their respective husbands is apparent throughout the speech and culminates in their final sentences: “We must once again come together and stand together for the man we can trust to keep moving this great country forward”, Obama says. “You can trust Mitt”, Romney assures the audience; “He loves America. He will take us to a better place, just as he took me home safely from that dance. Give him that chance”. Both speakers choose to end the speech using a metaphor for movement: they both insist that their husband, if elected, will move the country forward or take the voters to a better place. Interestingly, the speaker promoting the re-election of her husband used the word “change” in the presidential campaign four years ago. Now she asks the listeners to stand together with her. Romney asks, not for change, but for a chance.

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Which catch phrases and sentences do you think the audience will remember after having heard the two speeches? Only Romney uses rhetorical questions and hypophora. What effect does this have on her speech? How do you think people would have reacted if Mitt Romney had said “I’m not sure if women really understand this, but …”? “I want to talk about love”, Romney said. In which ways was her speech about love? Did she end up talking a bit about politics after all? Michelle Obama also expresses a lot of love in her speech – what does she express her love for?

The two women use both their husbands’ first names (“Mitt” and “Barack”) and their full names when they talk about them. Find two examples of both and discuss when they use just “Mitt” and “Barack” and when they use the full name – and why you think they do this. 2 Both Romney and Obama make direct and indirect references to “The American Dream” in their speeches. According to what they say, how has the American Dream been present and important both in their own and in their husbands’ lives?

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We all noticed it, didn’t we: the reports in the weeks leading up to the 2012 Olympics that no one in London was really interested, and that some things were not ready, and that ticket sales favoured business rather than ordinary folks, and that the transport system (London’s Underground not being exactly famous for its efficiency) was bound to collapse, and that it would rain all the time and that …?

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By Richard Hugh Peel

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Let’s take these things backwards. Yes, it rained a bit. No, transport worked very well – in fact, as the Guardian chortled, even Prime Minister David Cameron travelled on the Underground. Yes, there were empty seats at some venues early on, but all in all these games were extraordinary for the huge crowds at all events. Most things were ready, with one exception – there was a colossal scare in the weeks leading up to the Opening Ceremony when it was obvious that the company with responsibility

for security was a shambles. The army had to be called in. This was probably the biggest “scandal” of these Games. As for Londoners not being interested – the response to this scepticism was given by the sheer numbers who had bought tickets for the Games and by the enthusiasm and skills of the thousands of volunteers involved. As Michael Butcher, seasoned athletics correspondent, reminded me when I spoke with him about the London Games, “There are always these stories about apathy and anti-social ticket sales before every Olympics, and there are always empty seats in the early days, so this was nothing new. The astonishing

thing about London was the size of the crowds. I went to the very first morning of the athletics events, when there were no finals on the programme, only preliminary heats, and, being used to the fairly lack-lustre interest in athletics in London, I was expecting the usual first-day one-third full stadium. But it was packed, absolutely packed!” Everyone I have talked to about the Olympics, people who saw far more than I had any hope of seeing, talked about the crowds – their enthusiasm, their good-naturedness, and, most of all, their noise. Michael Butcher again: “I have never known anything like it. Well, at Sydney when Cathy Freeman won the 400 metres the noise was deafening, but in London the noise was more intense. The canopy over the stands sort of held the noise in. I have only twice been ‘shocked’ by a volume of noise from a crowd of people in my life. The first time was when I was 11 years old and went to support my

that were conceived and executed wholly by the organizers: the two opening ceremonies and the two closing ceremonies. Of these, it is probably the opening ceremony on 27th July that will be most remembered, and it is worth lingering on this as it gave a unique insight into how the British (or some British) see their history, society and culture.

Great Britain’s Mo Farah (left) celebrating his victory in the men’s 5000 metres with Jamaica’s Usain Bolt at the Olympic Stadium, London (©NTB scanpix)

home team Wolverhampton Wanderers for the first time. The racket when they eventually scored a goal jolted me – I can still remember having to put my hands over my ears! The same thing happened in London. When Mo Farah won the 5,000 metres the noise was so intense that the sound waves caused the photo-finish camera to shake, distorting the image that was recorded on the line. This has never happened before.” One nice thing about these Olympics was that sports which are practically non-existent in Britain attracted huge crowds and generated exceptional enthusiasm: handball, for example. Watch out, Norwegians! But perhaps the best thing of all was that the Paralympics also attracted massive crowds, and a huge television audience, achieving a profile they have never achieved before.

Nevertheless, the construction of London’s venues and facilities was achieved within its budget, and without a single fatal accident, and there were never any worries about it being completed on time. For television viewers, of course, the big architectural aspect was fairly unimportant; television brings an intimacy not readily available to the person in a stand or stadium, although modern technology manages to some extent to combine the two, with large screens and small smart phones offering close-up images. The sports competitions run themselves, within the context of the venues that have been constructed for them and the atmosphere created by spectators and by the competitors themselves. There were, however, four major events

It was the brainchild of Danny Boyle, director of Oscar-winning “Slumdog Millionaire”. He had been told by Sebastian Coe (chairman of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games) not to try to copy the sheer size of the opening ceremony at Beijing – no point trying to compete with the Chinese at what they do better than anyone (mass displays and fireworks) – and not to let any politicians tell him what to put in or what not to put in. Well, he and his team decided to put on a show that mirrored aspects of British history and life. It was quite a show! Starting with a sort of imagined idyllic version of Britain’s pre-industrial rural past – the “green and pleasant land” of Blake’s Jerusalem – Boyle’s ceremony portrayed the impact of the industrial revolution in forming a new society, and focused on the brave efforts of movements like the trades unions and Suffragettes to correct injustices. The scene changes were breathtaking, with green hills and fields being removed and replaced by mills, mines and factories, complete with huge chimneystacks. Here we were teased a little – having marvelled at the ingenuity and vitality of the industrial

Everyone remembers one defining moment from each Olympiad, and it is likely to reflect the particular sport you are most interested in and the country you come from. Each Olympiad also generates an abiding image of a more general nature. In Beijing in 2008 it was probably the graceful architecture of the main stadium and the design of the Olympic Park. “London,” says Butcher, “had nothing to compare with that. The Beijing stadium was a marvel. London’s main stadium looked as if it had been built with Meccano and the Park was obviously designed to cater for whatever it will be used for after the Games. The exception was the cycling Velodrome – a work of art.” Or, in the jargon preferred by the official Games website: “a sustainable and iconic venue”. A giant hospital bed during the Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London (©NTB scanpix)

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revolution, we were invited to salute people who made sacrifices in order to mend the injustices caused by that very revolution. But there was nothing pompous or preachy about it. In particular Boyle highlighted the contribution of the National Health Service to forging modern British society, using one of London’s most famous hospitals, Great Ormond Street – a children’s hospital – as an emblem for the NHS. The volunteers acting the parts of nurses were real NHS nurses, and some of the patients were real patients – here, as elsewhere, the mixture of make-believe and reality was captivating. In another sequence, we saw the arrival of immigrants from the Caribbean in the fifties, and, later on, family life in the 1970s and 1980s was portrayed as very definitely multiracial.


All this was too much for some rightwingers in the UK, but they seemed to overlook the fact that Boyle also paid tribute, for example, to the

Swaziland Olympic team, and they were in London for about four weeks.

- Did you get any pay?

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It was, of course, occasionally tonguein-cheek, with scope for some favourite comic figures like Mr Bean, but also very serious a lot of the time. The ceremony was full of colour and energy, and the timing extraordinary. Snippets of social and cultural history crisscrossed and almost defied our ability to take them all in – in the stadium different things were seen by different sections of the crowd; on TV the change from scene to scene was often so fast it baffled a lot of non-British viewers. One German newspaper headline said, “We didn’t know what it was, but it was

magnificent.” Boyle himself said about the ceremony, “I hope it will reveal how peculiar and contrary we are – and how there’s also, I hope, a warmth about us.” Boyle himself has paid tribute to the volunteers he used – almost 20,000 of them – and if there was one group of people who gave to these Games a special flavor, it was them. “Games Makers” they were called. Over 70,000 people were taken on as Games Makers – and there were over 240,000 applicants. They performed a host of duties, some relatively “simple” like raking the sand in beach volleyball stadium (such duties were done by a group of 2000 or so 16-18-year olds), others more demanding, like acting in the opening and closing ceremonies, hosting athletes, etc. Aftermath What of the future? Are the Olympic Games just a wonderful party (or tedious bore, depending on your point of view) every four years, or can they generate something more permanent?

A Games Maker at the Games!

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extraordinary brilliance of the great engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, and to the sacrifice of the armed forces in two world wars. He slowed everything down for the flag-raising ceremony, and focused boldly on the Queen, resorting to an extreme form of interplay between virtual and real performance in introducing her to the stadium. Anyway these snippets of criticism were forgotten in the general enthusiasm for this three-hour extravaganza.

Dave Galloway

Dave Galloway teaches at Pocklington School, a few miles east of York. He spent most of his summer holiday this year as a Games Maker.

- Dave, you were one of the famous volunteers, or Games Makers, at the London Olympics. First of all, what sort of time scale are we talking about? How long were you involved? - Well, to be a Games Maker you had to be ready to devote up to six weeks of your time to the Games. I applied as a linguist, which meant I would probably be working directly with a team all the time that team was in London. After my selection I was told I’d be an assistant to a team, and had to be ready for a five-week stint. I was assistant to the

- There was no pay or pocket-money, and you had to cover your own expenses, including accommodation. I live in Yorkshire, so I obviously had to find accommodation, which I did online and ended up in Clapton, for £100 a week, which was not too bad. Some Games Makers had to pay up to £25 a day! Quite a lot camped, which was cheaper, of course. So it was five weeks out of my summer. I have a very long-suffering wife!

- And you must be a very keen sports fan! - Well, yes, I am. I have always loved the Olympics. I have also been active in sports myself, particularly ball games like rugby and tennis, and, in recent years, golf. So I jumped at the chance of taking part in the London Olympics!

- Everyone who was at the Games in any capacity talks about the tremendous atmosphere there. Do you agree that it was something special? - Yes I do. I didn’t deal directly with the public, but wherever I went people could

see from my clothes I was a Games Maker, and I got lots of questions, and everyone was very, very friendly. I was in the Olympic park quite a lot and there was a terrific atmosphere, and never any panic although there were thousands of people.

- I’ve read that there was quite a tough selection process for Games Makers. - Well, I applied early in 2011, and had an interview, and, as I’ve said, told them I could offer languages, especially German. Then I had six training sessions in London – all at my own expense! At the end of May this year I was informed that I’d be working with the team from Swaziland – whose members, incidentally, didn’t speak German at all! The team consisted of three athletes and five coaches and officials. They were great. We all got on very well.

- Any medals? - No medals, no, but they were all very happy with their performances. In the swimming we had Luke Hall in the 50 metres freestyle. He broke the national record in his heat but failed to qualify. In athletics Phumlile Ndzinisa, only 18 years old, ran in the 400 metres – she

Some people see the Olympics in terms of their wider values and aims. In his speech to the Labour Party conference in September this year, Ed Milliband underscored his main point that the Labour party stood for “One Britain” by using the Olympics as a metaphor for inclusiveness: “… just think about the Olympics and Paralympic games. It was a triumph for Britain. And why did we succeed? We succeeded because of our outstanding athletes, from Zara Phillips the grand-daughter of a parachuting Queen, to a boy born in Somalia, called Mo Farah. Mo Farah. A true Brit. And a true hero for our country.” He will not be the only person to use the Games to underscore a point. That’s fair enough. But some observers go further, and claim that the success of these Games could spill over

ran in heavy rain and almost broke the national record, while Sibusiso Matsenjwa beat the national record in the 200 metres, but didn’t qualify for the next round. So they all did well and were happy. They’d had a training camp in Tavistock in Devon before the Games started, and got really well integrated. They got to know a lot of local people, and the nice thing was that they invited some of the locals from Tavistock to the stadium for the actual Games. This was typical for the spirit of the Games. I remember Sibsiso enjoying himself in the Village after his event, getting photographed with Usain Bolt, both of them very relaxed.

- What about you – did you have any free time? - This was one of the great things. We had our accreditation, and if we weren’t required by our team we could get into the different venues. I watched quite a bit of volleyball, for example. And I was in the main stadium for some of the great nights of athletics. But even the morning sessions were wonderful – I was there on 3rd August when Phumlile was competing in the first round of the 400 metres. It was raining. The stadium was packed! Mind you, it was

into actual political results. The mayor of London, Boris Johnson, was in the limelight and is a colourful personality, and some see the publicity he received as strengthening his chances of replacing David Cameron as leader of the Conservative party, not that he has said he wants the job. A few commentators claimed that the “British” patriotism aroused by the success of Team GB could undermine support for Scottish independence. At best, predictions like this are long shots, and probably just hot air in the summer season. As with all good parties, Monday comes around and life goes on as before. One or two facts of life were underlined. Britain’s medal rush obviously reflects the pluralism of modern Britain: more than one-third of Britain’s Olympic medal winners were born abroad, or had a foreign parent or grandparent, including two of Britain’s most highprofile winners who won gold medals within 45 minutes of each other on that extraordinary night of athletics

the first day of the Women’s Heptathlon, and Jessica Ennis was opening her campaign!

- What was your best moment? - Oh, it has to be the night Mo Farah won the 5000 metres, shortly before the Jamaicans won the 4 x 100 relay in a world record. The noise was unbelievable. And there you had Mo Farah and Usain Bolt side by side, each assuming the other’s victory salute. - But I must tell you about another terrific moment that came during the dress rehearsal for the opening ceremony. I was among a whole crowd of Games Makers who stood in for the athletes. In my case, that day, I was pretending to be one of the Djibouti team. Even during the dress rehearsal the atmosphere was great. And it was quite like the real thing, with full security checks and so on. For the opening night itself, my job was to make sure the athletes from Swaziland were at the right place at the right time so they could march into the stadium. Everything was worked out to the smallest detail. While we were walking towards the stadium entrance with our athletes, the volunteers who had been participating in the actual opening

on 4th August, Jessica Ennis who has a Jamaican father, and Mo Farah, who came to England from Somalia when he was eight, hardly speaking a word of English. In fact, my favourite story from the London Olympics originates in the press conference when Farah, after his victory in the 10,000 metres, was asked by a journalist if a tiny part of him would rather have been representing Somalia. His answer: “Not at all, mate. This is my country and since I was eight years old this is where I grew up. This


Obviously for athletes in every Olympic sport they generate enthusiasm and new goals and new friendships, but what about at a national or international level?

Team GB is in fact a misnomer, since the British team is from the whole of the United Kingdom, while “Great Britain” strictly speaking excludes Northern Ireland. The trouble is that “UK” has never been used in a sporting context, while “Team GB and NI” or “Team GB and Northern Ireland” were considered too cumbersome. Hence the inaccurate but easy-off-thetongue name Team GB.

ceremony were coming out of it – 20,000 of them. You can imagine. Twenty thousand leaving the stadium, and all the athletes entering. - And let me tell you now about a detail which tells you what these games were all about. As the three Swaziland athletes were walking towards the stadium, they and all the other athletes and their assistants passed hundreds and hundreds of children, waving flags, and there, among them all, we saw the Swaziland flag being waved by a bunch of kids. This is the sort of small thing that makes the Games a memory for life for the athletes.

- Thank you, Dave.

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is where I started life. This is where I went to uni. This is where the people I know are, this is my country and when I put on my Great Britain vest I’m proud, very proud, that it’s my country.”

Britain’s Jessica Ennis clears a hurdle at the 100-meter hurdles of the Women’s Heptathlon (©NTB scanpix)

It was always a goal with these Olympics that they should bring lasting benefits to young people – that east London should be regenerated, and that the nation should be inspired to become fitter. It was also a specific goal that new facilities should be available to people with disabilities. At this point it is impossible to evaluate success or failure here. In future years such an

Read It! Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson Reviewed by David O’Gorman

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Foreigners have been commenting on Britain and the British for hundreds of years. Julius Caesar appears to have been rather intimidated when he wrote in 54 BC that the Britons dyed themselves blue “and thereby have a more terrible appearance in fight”. Caesar’s fellow Roman Tacitus remarked of the British weather some 150 years later that “The sky is gloomy with many clouds, and showers are frequent”, and who in his right mind would disagree? The French, as might be expected, have been particularly harsh in their judgements, Bishop Bossuet referring in the seventeenth century to England as “Angleterre perfide” and Napoleon to the English in the nineteenth as “a nation of shopkeepers”. De Gaulle never became an Anglophile despite spending most of World War II in London, and managed to keep Britain out of the Common Market for years. It was in fact the British weather, which lowered the spirits of Tacitus and has lowered those of hundreds of millions of others since him, which prompted me a few weeks ago to reread Bill Bryson’s Notes from a Small Island. I was sheltering from the rain

in a bookshop in Cheltenham, waiting for a French lady (an Anglophile and no friend of de Gaulle) to finish shopping, when I recalled that Bryson, after living and working in London andd Yorkshire for twenty years, had started a seven-week farewell tour of Britain on a rainy eveningg ok, in 1992. I found a copy of the book, ordered another cup of coffee, and suddenly the boredom and impatience were no more. Twentyy rney, years after Bryson made his journey, it is still a mighty good read. Bryson shares little of Caesar’s trepidation and none off ew Napoleon’s hostility, and his view of Britain through American eyess is well-informed (based as it is on long first-hand experience), incisive, affectionate and hugely entertaining. He loves the country dearly, having lived in it for decades and married one of its daughters, but as a foreigner he sees its oddities and shortcomings more clearly than do the natives. His route will strike many as strange, since he visits both well-known places and some which most of us have never heard of. Also, he made his journey by public transport, and his comments on getting from A to B are a blend of frustration, perplexity and good humour. It appears that to get from

one major j urban b centre t iin th the south th off England to another, one has to go by way of London, and what would be a 20mile journey as the crow flies turns out to cover over 100 miles. That, at least, is how matters stood twenty years ago. One advantage of travelling by train and bus is that one can eavesdrop on and observe one’s fellow passengers, and this Bryson does, as usual, perceptively and with humour. Nobody and nothing is safe from his witticisms, but these are seldom bitter and very often uncritical. There are, quite simply, things about the British which he finds odd: their obsession with different motoring

evaluation will be possible. Whether or not any national “feel-good” attitude of mind lingers into the future will be less quantifiable. At all events, Brits in general, and Londoners in particular, will look back on the Games as a special time … and sports nerds will have masses to talk about. On 9th September, when the Olympic flame was quenched at the closing ceremony of the Paralympics, the citizens of London, thousands of athletes and a TV public around the world could look back on five weeks of exceptional sport, wonderful hospitality and an outstandingly successful Olympiad.

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routes, their stoical reluctance to complain (“mustn’t grumble”, they say so often), their calling each other and strangers “love” and “dearie”, the fact that he was offered a return ticket on British Rail for less than the price of a single, and our predilection for sitting on beaches in weather which would send an Italian or a Spaniard insane, for instance. He is surprised that the British can be made happy with so very little, and that town centres are deserted after dark, but these are two of the aspects of life in Britain which have been changing since 1992, and which make parts of the book, but not all of it by any means, rather dated. It is interesting to note that a poll conducted in connection with World Book Day in 2003 showed that British readers found Bill Bryson’s book the one which best summed up the identity of the British and the state of their nation. Then there are the unfathomable ways of seaside landladies like Mrs Smegma and her counterpane (did you, like Bryson, have to look the word up?) and trade union stalwarts like the intractable Vince at The Times before Murdoch modernized it. Bryson does not often spend a lot of time on individuals, but these two are priceless. The hospitality industry comes in for sharper criticism than other aspects of life on the small island, and, understandably for an American, Bryson is not favourably impressed by British hotels, pubs, restaurants and cafeterias. Apart from wondering innocently how anyone can possibly

enjoy small white biscuits, he finds hotels scruffy and labyrinthine and seems to prefer Chinese and Indian restaurants to more traditional British eateries. This, again, was understandable in 1992, but the advent of gastropubs, niche restaurants (vegetarian and the like) and JamieOliver-type hostelries, together with the ever-increasing variety and popularity of real ales (eat your hearts out, Norwegians: pilsner pales by comparison) has changed all that. Bryson reserves his most scathing criticism for modern architecture and town planning, and his book was a factor in putting a stop to the flagrant vandalism of historical buildings by developers keen to make a fortune by turning all of Britain’s city centres into identically tawdry architectural abominations - without red telephone boxes. For this alone Notes from a Small Island deserves a prize. What the author loves most about his host country is what millions of the natives find so attractive: the countryside and country pursuits such as village cricket. On the subject of the countryside, Bryson is fascinated by the names of many of the villages, some of which he has invented, and has fun with the real and imagined names of country pubs, “the Buggered Ploughman”, for instance. What he does not comment on is the baffling pronunciation of some place names, but even most Brits steer clear of attempting this unless they are locals. Notes from a Small Island is a highly enjoyable and not least an easy read. The chapters are short and the


Look through film of the opening ceremony, and make your own list of the aspects of British history and contemporary culture included in Danny Boyle’s ceremony. Present your list and discuss any themes the ceremony seems, in your view, to highlight. Maybe you think something that should have been included has been left out?

The opening ceremony is available here until December 31st 2012: http:// mspo11270112/27-07-2012 Or try this: watch?v=4As0e4de-rI 2 Sebastian Coe has a sporting career and a political career behind him. He is also a friend of Norway. Find out what you can about him. What, in your opinion, are his most significant achievements?

pace, as the author moves from one place to the next, is fast. The analysis is punctuated by amusing episodes (the wet evening in Weston-Super-Mare is side-splitting and most of the others elicit at least a hearty chuckle) and interesting characters. One has to take one’s hat off to Bill Bryson for undertaking his journey by train and bus and on foot at a time of year when downpours and gales are guaranteed, and, one gathers, on a modest budget which would have covered his needs and more on a Greek island-hopping jaunt but which was sufficient for bare necessities only in Britain. Britain? Not really. It is England which is the subject of most of the book, and Wales and Scotland are, sadly, not given a fair crack of the whip. And there are areas of England, like the Midlands, which could have received more attention. Another 01 criticism of the book is that it becomes rather repetitive after the first half, 02 and the humour is not as spontaneous 03 as in the earlier chapters. As has 04 been mentioned earlier, some of the 05 observations are dated, but this is 06 in a way positive in that it provides 07 us with a picture of a past but recent 08 age at the same time as it gives us an objective insight into much that is 09 quintessentially British. Or at least 10 English. 11 Lots of things have changed since 12 Notes from a Small Island made its 13 appearance, and not all of them for the better. One wonders what Bill Bryson 14 would make of Britain in the year of the15 Olympics and the Jubilee. With a little 16 luck, we may soon find out.

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ISBN: 978-82-02-39758-6

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