I don’t even know how to pronounce that, and the Modern Oxford Australian Dictionary that I keep by my desk has nothing between Phrenology and Phut. The OED on my computer is rather more helpful:

phthalic acid /”(f)TalIk/

  • n. Chemistry a crystalline acid derived from benzene, with two carboxylic acid groups attached to the benzene ring.

– DERIVATIVES phthalate n.

– ORIGIN C19: shortening of naphthalic (see naphthalene).

I am assuming that phthalates contain or are derived from phthalic acid, and this is reassuring.  At least this new threat to humanity is already known to the scientific community.

‘Threat to humanity’? Yes!  Research links ingestion of phthalates to high blood pressure, diabetes, allergies and male infertility.  These chemicals are not present in food or added to food, but are widely used in packaging materials to give them flexibility.  They are used in soap too, to reduce brittleness.  So packaged food can absorb phthalates.

A US study of 9,000 individuals found a strong correlation between eating ‘fast food’ (defined as food bought in a restaurant and not served by a waiter/waitress) and the presence of phthalates in the body. Click here to find out more – and to become even more scared of eating fast food.

Official Supermarket


It has often been observed that life imitates art. Increasingly, I find that life imitates the Monty Python Show.  Last week I thought I had misheard when the newsreader announced that Woolworths had been appointed the Official Supermarket of the Australian Olympic Team.  Then I read it in the newspaper and found it on an Olympic Games website.


I have nothing to add.  The headline is its own parody.  But I can’t help wondering what disciplinary action will be taken against any member of the team who is spotted pushing a trolley in Coles.

So Now


I’ve got used to politicians following every spoken sentence with “Now…” to forestall interruptions from interviewers and opponents. But a new mannerism has crept into common usage.  People of all stripes who are asked questions are beginning their answers with “So…”.  How did this start, and what do they mean?

According to the all my dictionaries the word ‘so’ may be an adverb, a conjunction or a pronoun and has several meanings, none of which is compatible with this new usage.

I wouldn’t completely disallow placing ‘so’ at the beginning of a sentence. One might reasonably say, “So cold was the wind that I wore two scarves and a borrowed pair of fur-lined boots” or “So humbly did the young man beg her forgiveness that Amelia’s heart was quite melted.”  But what I am hearing when I snick on my radio and hear a politician quizzed does not conform to such a template.

So [= for that reason] I am stroppy. I am so stroppy.