Tuesday, 10 December 2013


Here’s the headline from a recent article in a Galician newspaper: “Hackean más de dos millones de cuentas de Facebook, Twitter y LinkedIn”. It wasn’t the content of the article that interested me (after all, articles appear every day about accounts being hacked into) but the new Spanish verb being used, new to me at any rate: “hackear” – to hack or even hack into. I wonder how they pronounce it. Is it “ackear”, losing the “h” altogether? Or do they use the strong, guttural “h”, usually represented by “j” or “g”? And how soon will they hispanify the spelling? Most likely it will become “jaquear”. Because this is what usually happens to foreign imports when they are accepted fully into the Spanish language. This is the way the Spanish linguistic mindset works. 

I keep hearing about mindsets lately. Reports have been published showing pictures of male and female brains, with lots of lines representing how the different parts of the brain connect up, differently according to gender but still looking rather like balls of wool. Professor Regini Verona says her research shows that men and women are hardwired differently. This is why women can multitask better than men but men are better at reading maps, apparently. It’s supposed to explain why women can’t park but drive more cautiously than men. Well, I can usually park beautifully. My parallel parking has been praised by at least one macho man I know. And my daughter drives at crazy speeds most of the time, driving very well and safely, I hasten to add, but going rather faster than I ever do. What does that say about our hardwiring? 

A certain Robin McKie, recently named science writer of the year at the British Journalism Awards, maintains that we are probably less hardwired than the professor believes. He says that any slight differences are hardened, rather than hardwired, by people’s expectations of what males and females can and cannot do. Attitudes of parents, teachers, peers, almost anyone who has anything to do with bringing up children reinforce male and female behaviour patterns. So, it all comes down to that old nature versus nurture debate once again! 

Some of this is born out by choices made by British students when it comes to A Level subjects. A recent study shows that very few girls study Physics at A Level. Almost half of mixed schools in the state system did not send a single girl on to do Physics A Level. Many people teaching Physics in our high schools are not actually Physics specialists but that shouldn’t stop them enthusing their students. Single-sex girls’ schools do better, sending 2.5 times as many girls on to A Level. One argument put forward is that girls just don’t like Physics. Too facile an argument says Athene Donald, Professor of Physics at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of the Institute of Physics. (There’s someone who goes against all the statistics that says Physics is just for boys!) She maintains it’s much more down to attitudes and what is seen as cool. Here’s a link to what she has to say about it in full.

I’m not sure what hardwiring does to attitudes to cold-weather clothing. I know that you see young women wearing skimpy dresses and no coats when they go out on the town in the evening and I quite agree that it’s a crazy thing to do. However, you don’t see many of them out and about during the day dressed in sundresses and halter tops at this time of year. But you do see young men in shorts, sometimes shorts and vest tops. Our postman wears shorts all year round but then he walks about a lot all the time delivering the post. When we were out earlier today, in the space of half an hour we saw at least three young men wearing shorts and none of them appeared to be jogging or coming back form a visit to the gym. In fact, most of the ones you see jogging and cycling wear some kind of tights under their shorts. No, the ones we saw were just walking around, getting on with their lives, popping into the local co-op and so on. One of them even wore a nice warm parka with a fur-trimmed hood teamed up rather surprisingly with his shorts. 

So what’s the matter with these young men? Are they hardwired to prove they can be as macho as possible even as the temperatures go down?

1 comment:

  1. Nullius in verba.

    He hacked into a computer - Pirateó a una computadora.

    Hacked about the head - Hackeado en la cabeza.

    I am hacked off - Yo estoy arrancado.

    Hack off that branch - Cortar esa rama.