Naming a Cyclone

Hello and welcome to another episode of Koz Anglais.

Here I am at Meteo France. I’ve just completed a week’s session with the WMO, which is the UN branch of the World Meteorological Organization. Every two years they have a meeting, region by region. We are in the region of Africa, so here present in the room that you can see behind me, we had delegates from Botswana, Mozambique, Tanzania, Mauritius, Madagascar, Comoros, Swaziland, South Africa, Reunion of course and even Australia paid a visit.

It was a very interesting session with lots of different things discussed, both technically and operationally – we learned a lot about cyclones, I can assure you!

The media came in, and their one question was of course about the naming of the cyclones. “Have we named the cyclones for the next coming few years?” And the answer was ‘yes’, but there were some interesting problems that arose during the choosing of the names.

For the first fourteen letters of the alphabet, more or less, they have to find new names every year – the second part of the alphabet they simply recycle names from the past. But there was the delegate from Zimbabwe who said that one of the names proposed by Botswana, unfortunately, I think the name was Cyclone KUFA, he said “we can’t have that because in Kiswahili, ‘KUFA’ means ‘die’, and you can’t have a cyclone called ‘die’”.

So the representatives from the WMO spoke up, saying “this is happening more and more. We’ve noted in the Caribbean there’s a very traditional name for cyclones called ISIS,” which is of course the name for the Islamic State in Syria. So they have to be very careful about choosing names which don’t cause problems or controversy in the different countries.

Then the other members started to pipe up – the member from Botswana said “We can’t have ‘IAN’ as a cyclone, because that’s the name of our President at the moment!” There was some laughter from that. And then the representative from Mauritius said “Hang on, you’re right! We can’t have AMEENAH, because that is also a presidential name.” But the funniest was the delegate from Madagascar who said “I apologise for being coarse, but the name ‘ITAY’ in Madagascar is a bit vulgar.” She was asked to explain this, and she said “well, ‘I’ means ‘this’ in Malagasy, and ‘TAY’ means ‘shit’”, so there was me interpreting at a UN conference and I had to say the words ‘this shit’ in English! It was quite a moment for me!

Anyway, that’s the end of this podcast. Don’t forget to come back regularly to anglais.re – see you soon!

Vocabulary

session = séance
UN = ONU
delegates = délégués
arose = survenu
unfortunately = malheureusement

careful = prudent
to pipe up = prendre la parole
laughter = rire
coarse = vulgaire

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The History of Halloween

It’s that time of year again, the 31st of October, Halloween! What is it and why is it so popular in North America, the UK and anglophone countries? Well it originally started as Samhain, (pronounced ‘Saa’’wen’) an old Celtic Pagan festival. The Celts believed it was a day when the fairies and spirits could walk among the living, and disguised their faces so as not to be recognised by these creatures. The name was changed several times over the centuries and as its religious roots developed towards Christianity, from All Saints Day to All Hallows Eve and finally Hallowe’en.

It is probably most widely celebrated in America and this all started in the 19th century when the Irish and Celts exported their traditions over there as they emigrated. The tradition has also continued in the UK and today it is still a popular event there, although now it has been commercialised on both sides of the Atlantic and has largely forgotten its religious roots. Adults and children get involved, participating in games, dressing up, wearing masks and decorating their houses and gardens with witches, ghosts, monsters and other scary figures, with orange, black and green being the predominant colours for the festival.

One of the most iconic and popular symbols of Halloween is the pumpkin. This was first introduced in America, as they substituted the vegetable of choice in the UK which was the turnip, as it was far more accessible in those parts of the world. Pumpkin carving, apple-bobbing and trick-or-treating are some of the popular Halloween activities nowadays. I remember my first night trick-or-treating with my cousins when I was young, I think I modified one of my mums old dresses so I looked like a bat (or more likely a young ‘Prince’ tribute act), and off we went to knock on the neighbours doors, asking for sweets (the ‘treat’) or threatening them with a ‘trick’ (like a squirt with a water pistol) if they didn’t provide! We followed that up with some apple-bobbing where the aim is to lift apples out of a bucket of water using only your mouth or teeth, no hands – which was a great way to wash off that mascara I had on for my bat eyes!

Although not originally very widely celebrated in France, Halloween is slowly becoming more popular, with more and more children dressing up in their favourite costumes and not wanting to miss an opportunity to receive sweets! It remains one of the biggest excuses to dress-up every year for adults too, with the market for fancy dress growing year on year as people tend to go out to party for Halloween in North America, the UK and Ireland. My home city of Derry in Northern Ireland has one of Europe’s biggest Halloween celebrations every year, with a huge carnival and fireworks display. I’ll be spending it in Mafate myself though….so maybe I will hold back on the mascara and bat costume this year!

Vocabulary

fairies – fées
disguised – déguisé
largely – principalement
to dress up – se déguiser
witches – sorcières

pumpkin – citrouille
turnip – navet
carving – sculpture
bat – chauve-souris
knock – frapper

trick – astuce/ruse
bucket – seau
costumes – déguisements
sweets – bon-bons
tend – avoir tendance

fireworks – feu d’artifice

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Magma-gnificent

Hello! Welcome to another podcast from anglais.re. As you can see, this week we’re in a rather special location, up on Reunion Island’s erupting volcano, Le Piton de La Fournaise, which has currently been erupting for the last four weeks, and apparently it’s the fourth eruption this year.

Now, as it’s been going for so long, I said to myself “James, you MUST get up there as quickly as possible before the eruption stops”, because usually they only last for a few hours or a few days, but this one has been going for four weeks, and I said “if I don’t go now, I’m going to miss it!”

So, up at the crack of dawn: 2am alarm clock, a two-hour drive from St Paul, then an hour and a half’s jog round the crater to this spectacular viewpoint called Piton Bert, and here for sunrise. As you can see, the summit of the volcano is here, and here we have the vent which is where the magma is coming up, and of course you can see it flowing all the way down the mountain. And it’ll continue until it goes out to sea.

I must admit it is a very spectacular and humbling experience – I’ve been here for fifteen years on the island and this is possibly one of the most emotional moments I’ve had. To see nature in all its glory like this is a real privilege. I can even feel the heat coming off from the volcano here and I am probably 500-600 metres away. As you can see I’m on the top of a cliff looking down. If I show you to the left – there you can see the cliff. I’m not going to venture any closer. Last week somebody did venture closer and they fell all the way down to the bottom. So…I won’t do that.

OK, look forward to seeing you all again for another podcast at anglais.re. I can promise you, it won’t be as spectacular as this one.

Anyway, good bye and see you soon!

Vocabulary

rather = plutôt
location = lieu
quickly = rapidement
to last = durer
a few = quelques

to miss = rater
crack of dawn = l’aurore, l’aube
sunrise = lever du soleil
vent = fissure
to flow = couler

humbling = qui rend humble
heat = chaleur

cliff = falaise

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