Pls add to my collection of words…

I collect a particular type of word. They are multi-syllable words, in English, which are verbs if the stress is on one syllable but nouns if the stress is on a different syllable. For example, prod-UCE is a verb, meaning to create something, whereas PROD-uce is a noun, meaning apples, lettuces etc.

They are all multi-syllable word. I’m not collecting single-syllable words whose meaning changes depending on how they are pronounced (e.g., “now I read the books I read when I was a child”, or “we lead the world in production of lead”, or “a tear in his muscle lead him to shed a tear”).

With two-syllable examples it is often (always?) the case that the noun form has the stress at the front, whereas the verb form has the stress at the back. I’d be particularly interested in any opposite examples.

Below is my collection. Pls let me know of others!

WordMeaning 2Meaning 1
Noun: typically farm outputs
verb: to create
Noun: somebody you hire
Verb: to take somebody somewhere
Noun: thing made of several parts
Verb: to exaccerbate
Noun: documentation of something, or physical sound recording
Verb: to document something
Noun: somebody who accompanies, or a group (e.g., a consort of viols)
Verb: to operate together
Noun: prayer for the day in Anglican churches
Verb: to bring together
Noun: a development
Verb: to develop
A break or a niche behind
To put behind
The opposite
To talk


Pervert, convert, project, reject, object, subject, permit, extract, desert, defect, contract, construct, import, export, progress, refuse, process, proceed (I recently heard a non-native English speaker talk about using the pro-CEEDs from his house sale.) Some are nice sets with related meanings: insert, extract, implant.

Those are all two-syllable words. Here’s an interesting three-syllable one: envelope. It follows the same pattern: the noun has the stress at hte front (EN-velope) whereas the verb has the stress on the second syllable (enVELope: actually pronounced ‘en-VEL-up’. See below about pronunciation nightmares).

Obviously sometimes, the noun & verb are related (you produce your produce; a reject has been rejected). But other times they’re unrelated, e.g., a legal contract doesn’t involve something shrinking (contracting).

Some cousins:

  • Perfect. PERfect is an adjective (flawless), but perFECT is a verb (to make something flawless).
  • AUGust is a noun, but auGUST is an adjective.
  • CONtent is a noun, but conTENT is an adjective.

I recently discovered a word which can be a verb, noun or adjective(!). It’s ‘abstract’. An ABstract is the summary atop a scientific research paper; a painting can be ABstract; and one can abSTRACT the essence of something (rather like extract, or to summarise).

  • There are some words in which we change the consonant sound depending on whether it’s a noun or a verb, though the stress is in the same place. For example, abuse. The noun has an s sound (‘child abuse’), but the verb has a z sound (‘to abuse a child’ – rhymes with ‘ooze’). Similarly, an excuse has an s sound but to excuse oneself has a z sound. Refuse is the same.

Most three-syllable examples work a bit differently:

small stones that go on a path
to bring together
A characteristic
to consider as caused by something
An informed guess
to make an estimate
Every other one
(‘we eat on alternate Sundays’)
to take turns

* Maybe here, the stress in the verb is sometimes at the front and sometimes at the back(?)

There are some three-syllable words where the stress is always at the end but the meaning changes depending on whether how we pronounce the last bit. For example:

  • Aggre’gate’ is a verb, meaning to pull together. Aggre’gut’ (when we don’t pronounce the last bit like ‘garden gate’) is a noun, meaning the sum total (3-nil on aggregate).
  • Dele’gate’ is a verb, meaning to give somebody else a task. Dele’gut’ is a noun, meaning person at a meeting.
  • Estimate is like this too: estim’ate’ is a verb, meaning to guess, but esti’mut’ is a noun.
  • Gradu’ate’ is a verb, but gradu’ut’ is the person who graduates.
  • Associ’ate’ is a verb, but associ’ut’ is a noun.

Those words have cousins which are verb / adjectives:

  • Articul’ate’ is a verb, meaning to pronounce something, whereas articul’ut’ is an adjective, meaning able to express themselves easily.
  • Consumm’ate’ is a verb, meaning to formalise a marriage, whereas consumm’ut’ is an adjective, meaning skilled and accomplished.

In short, be kind to non-native English speakers! This too will also help appreciate what they’re dealing with.

Posted in Promoting giving | Leave a comment

Senegal birds

Every Sunday, BBC Radio 3 has a ‘Sounds of the Earth’ collage: a recording of nature (birds, trees, frogs, the sea, etc.) interspersed with relevant music. Caroline submitted such a recording of birds in the Sine-Saloum delta in Senegal, which was used for a Sounds of the Earth collage in May 2022.

Ile des Oiseaux, Sine-Saloum delta, Senegal (Photo credit: Alex Freeman)

The Sine-Saloum delta is a UNESCO world heritage site where the Saloum river reaches into the Atlantic. It’s huge: extending over 30km inland. Because it’s fresh water and just south of the Sahara, there are a zillion birds, presumably stopping off before/after their migration. Some of the birds – notably heron – we were assured, are the exact same ones we sometimes see in the Thames in London.

This recording was made just at sunset, next to a tiny island known as Ile des Oiseaux, and specifically the Reposoire des Oiseaux: ie, the birds are coming in to sleep. The island is covered in mangrove trees. Bird-watchers stay on their boats and watch. When we arrived, the trees (which are white with bird poo) seemed full of birds. They include sacred ibis (so-named by the ancient Egyptians), African cormorant, African pied kingfisher and snake bird. What you hear is them landing, crashing about on the branches, talking to each other, and feeding their young. 

Our Francophone guide predicted that eventually “le vrai spectacle commence”. The pelicans. They arrive last. 

They first send a scout: a solitary pelican comes, and circles the island to see if it is safe. They don’t like being watched, so several times, the scout came and went. Eventually the scout deems it safe. And then they come: great squadrons of these huge birds, all coming in from behind us (we were more or less under the trees by now, so as not to deter them). It was getting dark by now: great orange streaky sky. A dozen grey pelican in a group, then twenty, then thirty, then another dozen… we must have seen several hundred of them arrive. They’re big, and all landing on a few trees which were already full of birds. 

Posted in Promoting giving | Leave a comment

How to do videoconference calls

10 months into the epidemic of video-conference calls, and evidently we haven’t all figured out how to do them well. There are doubtless lots of other tips on the web, but here are mine:

In short, think about what the viewer sees.

  • Stand up. Esp. if you’re presenting or it’s an interview for TV or a job. People sound much better when they’re standing. (Hence why pro singers always stand.)
President Biden, on his first day in office, following the first piece of advice here
  • No back-lighting: do not be in front of a window or have a light behind you: they make you really dark.
  • Have the camera at eye-level. Do not under any circumstances put a laptop on a desk and look down at it: for one thing, you will scrunch yourself up over it and not look elegant at all: look at the pictures of Prince William below. For another, it looks like you are bearing down on the viewer, really aggressively. No ceiling should be visible. Put a laptop on a stack of books, or use a music stand or something.
  • Look into the camera – even though that’s a bit weird as you’re not then looking at the person speaking – but it makes them think that you’re looking at them.
Prince William calls Leanne and Kaydyn from Corby | Eastern Daily Press
Way too much head! Too much wall, and camera below eye-level
  • Don’t be too close to the camera. You don’t want the entire picture to be your head (see
  • Prince William, right). Make sure that you’re visible until at least down to your shoulders.
  • Try to use a phone rather than a laptop because the picture from phones is portrait, (same shape as you!) whereas on a computer, it’s (inexplicably) landscape, so we see less of what we’re interested in & more of what we’re not. But make the phone stationary: e.g., attach it to a music stand. Note that the phone will need to tip forwards (the top forward of the bottom) to avoid it pointing at the ceiling – so you’ll need some string to tie it the music stand to prevent it from falling over.
Gavin Williamson says parents will get TWO WEEKS' notice on schools  reopening | Daily Mail Online
Almost everything is wrong here
  • Get your eyes no more than a third of the way down the screen.
  • Have as little as possible in the background. Stand in front of a plain wall if possible. That can be inside -or even outside
  • Using headphones & the microphone may be better. 

Some looks to avoid: If you speak to a laptop on a table, you’ll end up inelegantly hunched up over it:

Kate Middleton jokingly told off Prince William in the video call

See other golden rules of public speaking.

Posted in Promoting giving | Leave a comment

Be an activist about the authors you read

Wow: ALL the books that The Economist cites by its own writers in its year-end ‘what to read’ section are by men! Clean sweep. Good work, boys.

I’ve all but ceased* reading books by white men. I realised earlier this year that almost every book I’ve read in the last 5 years had a male author(!) – except the Wolf Hall duo.

burstSo I’m on a drive to read more by women – and men of colour.

This skew is everywhere. For example, every week, The Week has an author (who needs some press coverage) recommend their fave books. This week, as quite often, they’re all by men.

It seems to be much easier to get published if you’re a man. One author approached 100 agents about a book: when the author’s name was a woman, it received just two responses, but when it was a man’s name, it got 17 responses. (Exact same book proposal.) Furthermore, the responses to the man’s name were much more positive and encouraging than those to the woman’s name. Sadly this wasn’t a ‘lab experiment’ but a real author’s experience of trying to get published. She’s a woman – Catherine Nichols – and said “it must be great to be a man!”.

It’s interesting: I read almost entirely non-fiction (science, maths, history, etc.) and, when I say that it’s mainly by men, people say ‘well yes’, as though women don’t/can’t write such books. It’s nonsense: there’s loads, if you look a bit. Here’s some of what I’ve read this year:

There are two good reasons for diversifying the authors you read.

First, to hear new voices and views. White men have certainly – ahem – made themselves heard (e.g., I have a degree in Western philosophy, which was entirely white men). I was inspired by David Evans who’s been reading this year books by authors from every country in Africa. For example, the book Nine Pints, science book about blood, is vastly different because the author is a woman than it would have been if it were by a man, e.g., she describes endometriosis and menopausal depression from her own experience of both.

I’ve found that deliberately reading books by people who aren’t white men opens up space: space for voices I’d not much heard before. Space to encounter new ideas and perspectives. Which, for me, is the whole reason for reading.

And second, because writing books is both a consequence of privilege and a cause of it. I say this as somebody who’s written a book. It’s a consequence of privilege because you need time to write: time when your employer pays you to write (senior people seem to get that more than junior people do), or time when you don’t need to be earning – or caring for anybody or commuting for hours because you can only afford housing miles away from your work. That is privilege. And it’s a cause of further privilege because books turn into speaking engagements, fees, travel, and press articles and hence better networks, clients, visibility etc. Cumulative advantage. In other words, your choice of authors whose books you buy / read / talk about / promote affects where power & privilege go. Be an activist.

So if you’re writing a book & you’re a white guy, get a co-author who isn’t. Share the spoils. I really mean this: it’s true for any book, and particularly if you’re a white guy writing about international development or philanthropy or some other thing designed to re-distribute power and privilege. Do some of that yourself. Go find a co-author. There are loads of people who can write books. Try to find somebody from a low- or middle-income country: we hear far too little from them. They will enrich your book perspectives and hence the book. 

*Not completely. I’m not a fundamentalist.

And anyway, Emily Maitlis has a new book out now, and the third Wolf Hall book publishes in March. I’ll be busy 😉
More on this topic:
  • Oxford philosopher Rachel Fraser article in the Spectator: ”Reading shapes our moral sensibility: the literary dominance of white men impoverishes our ethical understanding.”
  • Journalist MA Siegart on research showing that “men were disproportionately unlikely even to open a book by a woman… All this suggests that men, consciously or unconsciously, don’t accord female authors as much authority as male ones…If men don’t read books by and about women, they will…continue to see the world through an almost entirely male lens… this narrow focus will affect our relationships with them, as colleagues, as friends and as partners. ” 
Post-script: Here are some books I’ve read since writing the post above. See: there’s no shortage of great books – incl. non-fiction – by women and people of colour:
Books, Sept 2020
Posted in Promoting giving | Leave a comment

Why I’ve more-or-less quit Facebook

I have pretty much quit Facebook.

I can no longer stomach its willful disregard for democracy: by enabling user data to be used to (eg) influence elections, and its refusal to even show up when requested by parliaments (now several of them: see below).

It’s really a shame / cost to me because I really value being in touch with so many friends on there all this easy way. But not at any price.

I’m not saying that you should quit, but rather explaining why I have.

So we’ll need to find other ways. Do write or call or come round. Or if it’s really important, there’s always Twitter 

Posted in Promoting giving | Leave a comment

Social enterprise eateries & catering companies

I am driven mad by having meetings to discuss poor people in eateries owned by (often very) rich people. There doesn’t seem to be an easy list or map of social enterprise eateries, so I am collating a list: it will be useful to me and possibly also to you! If you know of any not listed here, please let me know (admin at giving-evidence dot com) If you’d like to turn this into some groovy map, please do.

London eateries

The Clink, restaurant in Brixton Prison. Very good food, much of it grown on the prison estate. Need to pre-book. Security procedures are, unsurprisingly, tight & a faff. The charity is entirely about getting prisoners into work and reducing re-offending.

Brigade, restaurant near London Bridge. “We help Southwark residents at risk of homelessness develop the skills and motivation to find employment.”

Places like churches (eg, the cafe under St Martin’s in the Fields, or at St Bartholomew the Great, Southwark Cathedral) and arts centres (South Bank Centre, Barbican, Almeida…) or the rentable rooms in things like National Trust properties are also public-benefit institutions.

Non-London eateries

The Clink, restaurants in prisons in Cardiff, High Down (Surrey), and Styall (Cheshire).


The various Clink restaurants also do catering.


Family Foraging Kitchen CIC, an award-winning social enterprise that provides wild food education through foraging walks, cookery classes and courses in traditional countryside craft.

Posted in Promoting giving | Leave a comment

Golden rules of public speaking

I do masses of public speaking. These are my ‘golden rules’, which might help you. (If you have other good ‘golden rules’ to add to this list, do get in touch.)

1. Assume the technology will fail

It fails more often than not, in my (pretty extensive) experience. Be prepared and able to give your talk without any of the visuals. Have enough notes and know your talk well enough that you can proceed without them.

A good idea is to ensure that there’s a flipchart handy, and that the pens work, so that you can hand-draw any charts or diagrams if necessary.

I recently had an epic fail, worse than no slides, in which the slides appeared on screen in random order(!)


2. Most of the audience can’t see the bottom third of your slides, so don’t put anything important there

Pretty self-explanatory. Use the bottom third (or half, if it’s a big audience in a room with a flat floor) for notes about the source of your graph or whatever: only because that should be in the materials somewhere (unless you’re inviting the assumption that you fabricated the data…)

3. Talk slowly 

More slowly than you can imagine. It’s almost impossibly to speak too slowly on stage.

The purpose of your talk is to tell people things that they don’t know. So by definition you’ll be saying things that are unfamiliar. People need time to process what you’re saying.

Hence shut up for the 30 seconds or so after you put up a new slide, so people have time to concentrate on that and interpret it. They can’t concentrate on both a new picture and new words simultaneously.

If you are speaking in your native language and there may be non-native speakers in the audience… well… think of your high school French (or whatever) and think about how slowly the speaker would have to be going for you to have a cat in hell’s chance of understanding them. Brits and Americans are particularly bad at rattling on way too fast (presumably because we so rarely have to understand other languages at full tilt). Also avoid complicated vocabulary and idioms which non-native speakers may not know.

After I’d been living in Vienna for six months, I told a Bulgarian colleague that my German had improved loads. He said “yes, and your English is much better too.”

See this.

4. Practise

This is like the best-guarded secret of public speaking. Practise. Out loud. Address the cushions in your living room. You’ll feel like an idiot at first. But you do not want the first time that you hear your talk to be when you’re in front of a big crowd. My cushions hear a lot.

My flute teacher used to say that “The difference between amateurs and professionals is that amateurs practise until they get it right. Professionals practise until they don’t get it wrong.”

I once gave a super-high pressure talk, for which I was being paid a lot. Mindful of my flute teacher’s advice, I learnt it verbatim.  A good job too: when it came to it, I was losing my voice, we had to decamp from one room to another, one prince flounced out of the room because another prince had allegedly breached some rule of etiquette (I’m not making this up). Because I’d learnt the talk, I could just ‘put the tape on’ and focus on the audience in the room – and getting the waiting staff to bring me water all the time so I could literally speak – and not worry about the content.

When I spoke at my mum’s funeral – obviously a high-risk idea – I practised my talk so well that two years later I still know it verbatim. I practised it in three churches (‘hello, my mum’s funeral is next week: do you mind if I just practice my address in your church for half an hour?’) and in my head constantly for the fortnight beforehand.

5. Think, breathe, speak

This is the central advice from RADA, the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Use that in your Q&A session – and tricky meetings.

6. The slides

Oh man. The slides. They can kill your talk.

First, think how many of the slides you’ve seen in your life you can remember. That is about the chance that any of your slides will be remembered. You can probably bin at least half of them.

Second, they’re there to serve you, you’re not there to serve them. If you don’t need a visual, have the screen blank (make a black side: a slide with a massive black box covering the whole area). See my TED talk. Then, when you need the screen again, it’s way more striking.

Third, remember that you’re talking to the audience, not to the slides. You shouldn’t need to see the slide (except instantaneously to check that it’s there): you should know what’s on it.

Malcolm Miller, the expert in the windows of Chartres cathedral, gives all his talks about them with his back to them. “In the third pane from the left, on the fourth level from the top”. But then, unlike you, he doesn’t have to check that his visuals are still there 😉

Fourth, have a slide at the end with your contact details on.

——I hope that this was helpful! ——

Since I wrote this article, various people have written with their presenting tips. They include these:

Always, but ALWAYS go to the lectern beforehand, table or wherever else you are speaking, and check:

  • the trip hazards en route – and back
  • the table or lectern height
  • ditto the mic
  • that any notes won’t fall off the lectern (and number each page if you do use notes, for when they do fall off)
  • that the lighting is OK and you will be able to see & read
  • that ideally you can see a clock
  • + test your voice in the room.


Posted in Promoting giving | Leave a comment

Jeremy Hunt’s rubbish response to my letter about the NHS contract

In April, I wrote to my MP, Cabinet Minister Justine Greening, about the fact that there’s no evidence that the new contract being imposed on the NHS  will improve anything and some evidence that it’s discriminatory. My letter’s here.

Greening forwarded me the Health Secretary’s response – which doesn’t address any of hunt-response-1 my points about the NHS. Greening’s covering letter is here, and Hunt’s letter is here and here (sorry for it being two files…)

I have today written to Greening again, and will post here if I get a response.


Dear Justine,
Thanks for forwarding Jeremy Hunt’s response to my letter to you (published here) concerning what he’s doing with the NHS. And by the way, congrats on your appointment to education.
Sadly, neither your letter nor Hunt’s addresses any of my points about the NHS. Those were mainly actually points for you, rather than him, as they relate to the response of the rest of Cabinet to all this. I remain interested in your/ his response to those points. To repeat, they are:
  • Hunt claims that the new contract will improve patient outcomes (or maybe cost-effectiveness) – as does your letter to me (1 June). But we don’t know that that’s true because the contract has not been tested. Why is he allowed to dismiss the idea of testing it in a small area before imposing it across the whole system? (He might be wrong: it might make things worse!)
  • Why is he allowed to introduce a new contract which even his own department admits is discriminatory against women? (discussed in the Telegraph here). The measures he cites in his letter may be true, but they’re obviously insufficient to prevent even his own department saying that the contract is discriminatory.
  • Why is he allowed to keep mis-citing the BMJ study, claiming that it shows that the higher rate of deaths at weekends results from there being few doctors around then, when it doesn’t, and the Editor of the BMJ has publicly written to him to say that?
Your letter (1 June) talks about constituents being worried about the effect of the strike. To be clear, that is not my concern at all: I, and many other Putney residents with whom I’ve discussed this, am concerned about the effect of what they are striking about, i.e., the contract which Hunt seems bent on imposing on them despite having no evidence that it’ll improve anything.
Please send your response by email, not post: the last one got lost in the post for two months.
With thanks
Posted in Promoting giving | Leave a comment

Letter to my (Tory) MP on Jeremy Hunt and the NHS

Tomorrow sees the first walk-out by junior doctors in the NHS’ history. My MP is a member of the Cabinet (Sec of State for DFID). I sent this to her today. I urge you to write something similar to your MP. My letter references a conversation she & I had about evidence in public policy, about which you can read more here. I will publish her response to this letter when it comes.

“Dear Justine [Greening]

I hope that you are doing very well.

I write to ask why the Conservative Cabinet is allowing Jeremy Hunt to destroy the NHS.

Tomorrow’s planned strike is unprecedented. It is in opposition to a contract which he yesterday refused to pilot in a few regions and have rigorously evaluated. I’m glad that of all MPs, you are mine, because you might be able to understand the craziness of that better than most MPs: DFID seems to understand better than most departments that the answers to tricky problems are not obvious and that experiments & rigorous evaluations can help us find – indeed, are often the sole way to find – the right answers. You and I talked about how DFID funds loads of rigorous evaluations of pro-poor programmes, and syntheses of them for that reason.

Indeed the Conservative-led coalition set up various What Works Centres precisely to gather and collate experimental evidence on social policies because ‘the right answer’ is rarely obvious. Why then is a member of a Conservative Cabinet allowed to rubbish the notion of finding out empirically whether his proposed contract will improve patient outcomes?

It’s particularly ironic that he’s doing this in *health*, because health, of all fields, has seen the greatest gains in outcomes precisely because of experimentation. And Britain was the crucible of that.

Furthermore, why is he allowed to introduce a new contract which even the DoH admits is discriminatory against women? (as discussed in the Telegraph, here).

Hunt’s plan for the NHS seems to be to deal with the ‘fact’ that deaths increase at weekends. Umpteen people have pointed out that that’s nothing to do with the staffing that he seems to be trying to solve, but instead largely due to the fact that the people admitted at weekends are more ill than those admitted in the week: a ‘selection effect’ rather than a ‘treatment effect’. Radio 4’s More or Less noted this, and no less a figure than the Editor of the British Medical Journal wrote to him publicly to ask/tell him to stop misquoting their study.

It’s all the more bizarre because the basic problem in healthcare isn’t weekend deaths or doctors’ contracts, but the fact that an aging population will vastly increase health- and social-care costs, for which Hunt seems to have no plan at all.

While we’re here, why is the Education Secretary allowed to impose a governance form on all schools when that hasn’t been rigorously evaluated either?

I’m genuinely confused because I thought that Conservatism was about freedom and choice, and intelligently using evidence, and rationalism and encouraging diversity/inclusivity in the workplace – and generally avoiding intuited centrist diktats.

I’d be grateful for your view / rapid intervention. And it’s fine to reply by email: MPs weirdly normally reply by letter – an unnecessarily expensive process now almost unique to them.

Caroline Fiennes”

Posted in Promoting giving | Leave a comment

Euphemisms for fundraising

For some reason, people in nonprofits often dislike to say that their job is raising money. So they use loads of euphemisms for it, many of which seem to me really weird. I’m collecting examples. Please send others!

  • Development“. This is perhaps the most frequent term. It’s bonkers because fundraisers aren’t in charge of developing the organisation: that responsibility is with the management team or board. Sometimes organisations let the direction of their development be by donors’ wishes – universities building new buildings or departments because a donor wants them are a common example – but surely that’s pretty bonkers too: how an organisation develops should be a function of what its beneficiaries/market needs and what gaps are left unserved by other providers. ‘Development’ is also really confusing in international development NGOs – everybody in those organisations works in ‘development’, so those organisations use that term to mean two completely different things.
  • Head of Philanthropy“. You may think that ‘philanthropy’ means giving money out, but nonprofits sometimes use it to mean getting money in! I really dislike fundraisers having this title as it implies that they think they’re in charge of your philanthropy. I once got approached by a fundraising foundation about it’s ‘head of philanthropy’ role, which I assumed meant ‘head of giving money out’ but in fact meant ‘head of getting money in’. The job of ‘giving money out’ was called ‘investments’: how they refer to actually investing capital before it is given out, I never discovered.
  • Growth. Sure, you need money to grow, but you also need other things, like people and probably office space or equipment. You don’t often see the fundraisers arranging those other things, but this terms sounds like the organisation’s growth is entirely due to them! Fundraising is necessary but not sufficient.
  • Institutional advancement“. This seems to be an American term, but simply reminds of Napoleonic armies…

Why don’t they have job titles that reflect what they actually do, e.g., donor engagement, donor management or donor experience? That latter is my preferred term: businesses talk loads about ‘customer experience’, and having people in a nonprofit who obsess about the donor experience seems highly sensible.

Posted in Promoting giving | Leave a comment