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Who was Lord Baden-Powell?

True story: A senior cub-scout leader points to a portrait very similar to the one shown here, and asks the nine-year-old boys if they know who it is.

“Is it Adolf Hitler?” asks one of them.

The other scout leaders look at their shoes in embarrassment, but know they will have a good chortle(1) over this later.

Note: Privately, the SameSky Languages teachers have views on issues such as this, but for the purposes of this blog, it is our intention not to promote one side of the argument, but to stimulate debate among our students.

The story in the opening paragraph relates a child's innocent mistake, but it reflects the levels of discomfort that can be caused in adults as the debate now rages: should historical monuments be judged in the light of modern standards?

Baden-Powell, or to give him his full name and title, Lord Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell, was a highly decorated(2) English army officer, who in 1907 founded the Boy Scout movement. Clearly a visionary hero in the eyes of many, we are now being reminded of the aspects of his life that are considered "less worthy of commemoration". This was a phrase used by the Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole (BCP) Council as they debated whether to remove the statue of Robert Baden-Powell. This would be done on the advice of the police, because there are fears that it is now on a target list for attack.

This comes in the wake of(3) the anti-racism protests that were sparked by the killing of an unarmed black man in Minneapolis, USA. Rather than merely being angry, protesters have decided to take tangible steps and vent their sense of injustice by targeting historical figures who fall foul of today’s standards of diversity and inclusion, to put it mildly.

So why is the founder of such a positive, wholesome movement as the Scouts considered fair game(4)?

Predictably, emotions run high on both sides of the debate. Typically, those on the political right oppose the removal of the statue, while those on the left believe it should be taken down.

Baden-Powell, who died in 1941, has been targeted for criticism by campaigners who accuse him of racism, homophobia(5) and support for Adolf Hitler.

Corrie Drew, a former Labour parliamentary candidate from the Bournemouth area said: "We can commemorate the positive work without commemorating the man."

She added, in an interview with BBC Breakfast: "A quick look into his history shows that he was very open about his views against homosexuality and that he was a very open supporter of Hitler and of fascism and quite a strong, outspoken racist."

However, there are two sides to the story: an online petition(6), set up to "defend Poole's Lord Baden-Powell statue”, received more than 3,500 signatures in the first 24 hours. Tobias Ellwood, Tory MP for Bournemouth East, said: "Few historical figures(7) comply with 21st century values. Simply expunging(8) past connections from sight won't correct wrongs or help us better learn from our past."

· What do you think?

· Do you believe that the existence of a statue is the same as supporting the views of the person it represents?

· Is there a similar debate in your country?


Notes and questions

1. Chortle (usually a verb, but can also be a noun)

It means laugh...Other synonyms: chuckle, giggle, snigger, cackle, guffaw...

Question: Of this list, which word would best describe the type of laugh:

a. that you do behind your hand, when someone unintentionally says something rude?

b. that an audience does when they find a joke extremely funny

c. that is slightly sinister, laughing more at someone else’s misfortune than something funny

d. that people, especially children, do for no apparent reason, when everything just seems funny

e. that you do when you find a joke quite funny (6/10) but it does not deserve a belly-laugh!

2. Decorated (adjective)

In this case, it means rewarded for bravery with a military medal.

Question: Can you think of three other things that can be decorated?

3. In the wake of (expression)

It means simply “after”

The wake is the V-shaped pattern left in the water behind a boat. So, in the wake of means after something has happened.

Question: A wake has a completely different meaning. It is the celebration immediately after

a. A wedding b. a funeral c. a baptism

4. Fair game (adj/noun)

A reasonable target

Game is a very common word in terms of playing games, but another meaning is: the animals which are hunted. In places where hunting is legal, it is still unfair to shoot certain animals, but others are fair game. Used figuratively, as in the article, it means that it is considered reasonable to criticise certain people.

Question: Also used as an adjective, being game for something means being...

a. ...very good at it b. ...very bad at it c. willing to try it

5. Homophobia

Discrimination against, or dislike of, homosexuals

To have a phobia of something usually refers to a fear, rather than a dislike.

Question: Can you match the words to the fears? There is sometimes a clue in the word...

a. Aerophobia - Fear of...

b. Arachnophobia - Fear of...

c. Claustrophobia - Fear of...

d. Glossophobia - Fear of...

e. Hydrophobia - Fear of...

f. Technophobia - Fear of...

g. Xenophobia - Fear of

technology / confined spaces / foreigners / Flying / water / spiders / speaking in public

And one for fun. The fear of long words is: Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia

6. Petition

A written request or call for change signed by many people in support of a particular cause.

Discussion question: Have you ever signed a petition? Do you think it did any good?

7. (Historical) figures (noun)

Well-known people

In Merriam Webster’s dictionary ( there are eleven different definitions for the word figure – and that’s just the nouns.

Question: Can you figure out what these phrases mean?

a. To have a head for figures

b. She has kept her figure, despite not doing any exercise recently

c. That house figured in my dream last night

d. I didn’t mean it literally – it was just a figure of speech.

8. Expunge

Get rid of, remove

In medieval manuscripts, little dots was used to mark mistakes or to label material that should be deleted from a text, which can help to remember the history of "expunge." They were known as "puncta delentia." "Puncta" derives from the Latin verb pungere, which means "to prick or sting" (and you can imagine that a scribe may have felt stung when his mistakes were highlighted in a manuscript). So "pungere" gives us "expunge," it is also the ancestor of other dotted, pointed, or stinging terms such as "punctuate," "compunction," "poignant," "puncture," and "pungent."

Question: Of the words on this list at the end of this paragraph, which one do you think refers to a strong smell?



1. Chortle, laugh etc.

a. snigger

b. guffaw

c. cackle

d. giggle

e. chuckle

2. Things that can be decorated:

A house, a Christmas tree, a cake...

3. A wake is a celebration after a funeral (b)

4. Being game for something means willing to try it (c)

5. Phobias and fears:

a. Aerophobia - Fear of flying

b. Arachnophobia - Fear of spiders

c. Claustrophobia - Fear of confined spaces

d. Glossophobia - Fear of speaking in public

e. Hydrophobia - Fear of water

f. Technophobia - Fear of technology

g. Xenophobia - Fear of strangers or foreigners

7. Figures etc.

a. To have a head for figures – To be good with numbers

b. She has kept her figure – She is in good physical shape

c. That house figured in my dream last night – appeared, featured

d. It was just a figure of speech. – Just an expression

8. Pungent is generally used to mean “having a sharp or intense odour (smell)”

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