Drumroll please …

Well – the decision has been made. After one hell of a literature review and a lot of rummaging around in the corpus, we have decided to focus my in-depth analyses on … drumroll please:

  • the progressive aspect (e.g. I am going as opposed to I go), and
  • prepositions/phrasal verbs (e.g. things like to participate on vs participate in, or Could you plug out the cable? rather than unplug).

More details soon, but suffice it to say the next year of my life will officially be devoted to words like in, at, on, for and by and things ending in –ing. World-changing stuff!

Unwitting urinators

Mini-column ‘Alison in Wonderland’, published in the Observant, Maastricht

Back in the good old days, scientists never wasted their time on tiresome ethics committee bureaucracy. In 1976, the US researchers Middlemist, Knowles and Matter tackled the burning research question: how do invasions of personal space affect men’s urination in a public toilet? Their unwitting urinators could choose from one of three urinals. A researcher then stood directly next to them, one urinal away, or was not present at all. Another researcher observed the stream of urine via a periscope hidden in some books. The results? No surprises here. The average onset of urination is 4.8 seconds when peeing solo, but 8.4 seconds with someone right next door. So don’t grumble about ethics committees. Thank them for the fact that no-one has a periscope pointed at your pee today.

British presence a gross exaggeration

Mini-column ‘Alison in Wonderland’, published in the Observant, Maastricht

The Times Higher Education magazine has reported that claims of British students ‘flocking’ to the Netherlands are gross exaggerations. In reality, the article points out, the number of Dutch students in the UK is more than double that of British students in the Netherlands. Sure – but the fact that British students are now the fourth largest non-Dutch group in Maastricht makes them a significant minority, whereas the 3000 or so Dutch students in the UK are just a drop in the ocean. The article also warns that ‘Tuition fees in the Netherlands … cover only part of the full cost of the degrees. The cost of teaching will also be covered by a heavy subsidy from the Dutch taxpayer.’ This may be so. But from the perspective of British students (or their parents), it’s hardly a reason to stay at home.