Marching together

In 2000, the chamber choir I sang in and one other similar choir were invited by Sydney’s biggest concert choir to join it to form the choir for the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. We got the best deal of any of the performers – we got to see the whole ceremony from high up in stands. (We sang one verse of the national anthem and an excerpt from the Te Deum by Berlioz during the entry of the flame and the lighting of the cauldron. RIP Betty Cuthbert (d 6 August 2017).)

There were two rehearsals – a closed one, with some stops and starts, the previous Saturday, and an open one, essentially continuous, on the Wednesday. The entry of the flame and the lighting of the cauldron were omitted, and the parade of nations was represented by the placard and flags bearers only.

On both occasions I noticed that South and North Korea were missing from the parade. They weren’t filed under ‘K’ or ‘N’ and ‘S’. (This was six years before I went to South Korea, but I have always been interested in the countries of the world.) There was an announcement for ‘Individual Olympic Athletes’ immediately before Australia (the host country always enters last) and I vaguely thought the Koreans would be marching there.

On the night of the ceremony (15 September 2000), after Kenya had entered, I noticed a lot of people standing at the entrance who obviously weren’t Kuwaiti. (Kosovo now also comes in between.) The announcements were given in French first, then English. There was a long announcement in French, and the digital screen was filled with writing. My French was just good enough to get the gist, but I wasn’t sure until the announcement in English came:

The delegations of the Korean Olympic Committee and the Olympic Committee of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, marching together as Korea.


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‘To the egress’

At a railway station in central Sydney, I saw a door marked EMERGENCY EGRESS ONLY. I guess that at least 99% of such doors in the English-speaking world are marked EMERGENCY EXIT ONLY.

Egress is the slightly earlier word, dating from the 1530s. Exit as a stage direction (technically, a verb) as in ‘Exit, pursued by a bear’ dates from the 1530s, but from the 1590s it was used as a noun, as in ‘All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances’ and (occasionally) a ‘real’ verb.

From about 1650 to about 1850, the two words were used more or less interchangeably, but then the use of exit grew and egress declined, probably corresponding to the growth in public railway travel. Then in the early 1970s, the use of exit skyrocketed, for reasons I can’t think of, but curiously declined from 2000 to 2008. Most of this was due to the use of exit as a noun; exit really only began to be used as a verb in the 20th century.

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When is the Queen’s birthday not the Queen’s Birthday?

Last week I told my students that today was a public holiday. One student said ‘Is it Queen Elizabeth’s birthday?’. I said ‘No, it the Queen’s Birthday’. Queen Elizabeth’s birthday is 21 April. The Queen’s Birthday is today. The June date (the second Monday in June) is a holdover from George V, whose birthday was 3 June. The short-reigned Edward VIII’s birthday was 23 June, but George IV’s was 14 December (too close to Christmas/New Year and Elizabeth II’s is too close to Easter and Anzac Day (25 April). (If George V’s birthday was 3 June, why didn’t they settle on the first Monday in June?)

In Australia, there is very little, if any, official commemoration of the day. (It’s not even celebrated on the same day in each state.) Previously, awards in the Imperial honours systems (for example, MBE, OBE, KBE) were announced on the Queen’s Birthday. Apparently, awards in the Order of Australia still are; if so, it is a much smaller event that the announcement on Australia Day.

In New South Wales, all but one of the public holidays  fall in a span of less than six months, between 25 December and the second Monday in June. After this, we have only Labour Day (the first Monday in October).

We built this city

I can’t remember when I bought this puzzle. The last building on the chart dates from 2007, so it’s obviously after then (indeed after 2009, when I returned from Korea). It has three components – a standard cardboard jigsaw of the land (with buildings as at some unspecified earlier time) and water, a foam jigsaw of the land (with buildings generally as at 2007) and plastic buildings which slot into the foam layer. Some details are worrying (like the cricket ground and football stadium being there, and buildings across streets) and some have been superseded (the Entertainment Centre/Convention Centre area (now and Barangaroo). (The manufacturers are 4D Cityscapes Inc, in Markham, Ontario.)

I have done this with my students several times. The foam layer is easier (because it covers less area and has larger pieces) and more interesting. The cardboard layer is much harder. We did this in the last class of last year, and completed about 3/4 of it. Getting it home was a challenge, but I set it up on the dining room table and continued occasionally for almost two months.

I finished yesterday. This person finished quicker, and included stirring music.

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Botany Bay 18-26 Jan 1788 – Part 5

[For introduction and part 1 (Non-verbal communication) see here]

[For part 2 (Exchange of possessions and What sex are you?) see here]

[For part 3 (Weapons) see here]

[For part 4 (The first words and Descriptions/opinions/attitudes) see here]


Many of the geographical names referred to by the writers had been bestowed by Cook in 1770. All of the writers refer to Botany Bay with no further explanation. Navy Surgeon George Worgan expects his brother to be as familiar with it as he is with a much older colonial outpost:

‘We sailed from the Cape of Good Hope … the last civilized Country We should touch at, in our Passage to Botany Bay.’

Other features named or referred to by Cook are named or referred to, sometimes also without further explanation, or by formulae such as ‘so named by Capn Cook’ or a full explanation:

‘Sutherland Point, so named from Forby Sutherland, one of Capt. Cook’s Sailors dying at this place & being there buried’ (Navy Surgeon Arthur Bowes Smyth); ‘an Inlet on the Coast … which, our great Circumnavigator, Captns Cook, discovered, and named, (in honour of one of the then Commissioners of the Navy) Port Jackson’ (Worgan).

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Botany Bay 18-26 Jan 1788 – Part 4

[For introduction and part 1 (Non-verbal communication) see here]

[For part 2 (Exchange of possessions and What sex are you?) see here]

[For part 3 (Weapons) see here]

The first words

Three writers agree in recording the first native word: wara (Captain John Hunter) / warra (Judge Advocate David Collins) / whurra (Marine Lieutenant Watkin Tench) (Jakelin Troy, in her various academic publications, adopts the spelling wuruwuru), which Tench states ‘signifies, begone’. (Collins, rather circuitously, says that this word, ‘by the gestures that accompanied [it], could not be interpreted into invitations to land, or expressions of welcome’; Hunter does not specifically interpret it.) The writers adopt different spellings (foreshadowing recurring difficulties regarding orthography) and disagree about the circumstances. Hunter places it as the ships were sailing into the bay: the English were not welcome in the first place. Tench places it at the end of an hour’s apparently friendly conversation, and Collins as the governor’s longboat sailed from Botany Bay to Port Jackson: the British may or may not have been welcome, but had overstayed.

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Botany Bay 18-26 Jan 1788 – Part 3

[For introduction and part 1 (Non-verbal communication) see here]

[For part 2 (Exchange of possessions and What sex are you?) see here]


In any interaction between opposed groups, weapons can be utilised by visibly laying them down, brandishing them, demonstrating them (not against people), or using them against people. The first three of these occurred, on both sides, during the first interactions. Navy Surgeon George Worgan reports:

‘the Governor … shewed them his Musket, then laid it on the Ground, advancing singly towards them, they now seeing that He had nothing in his Hands like a Weapon one of y oldest of the Natives gave his Spears to a younger, and approached to meet the Governor.’

Navy Lieutenant Philip Gidley King writes:

‘two of the Natives then approached but kept their Spears poised, being fearfull of the Marines who were at some distance in the rear … one of them threw a lance wide of us, in order to shew the force & power of their arms, the distance it was thrown was as near as I could guess about forty Yards, & when it was taken out of the Ground it required an Exertion to pull it out. As this might be deemed a threat, which was accompanied with much generosity in shewing the power of their Arms, I advanced again towards them, on which they retreated backwards, & seeing that no advantage could be gained by a longer stay I joined the party & we went down the hill to go to the Boat we had scarcely got to the foot of the hill when a lance was thrown amongst us, but without any striking any person, As they appeared on the top of the Hill & seemed disposed to throw more lances I ordered one of the Marines to fire his musquet with powder only, on which they flew with great haste.’

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