Big Ben

The Elizabeth Tower is the name of a famous tower of the British Parliament – more popularly known as “Big Ben.” The tower is often called Big Ben, although it is the nickname of the massive bell inside the clock.

Here are a few interesting facts about one of London’s most famous landmark that you might not know:
• The original name of the tower was the Clock Tower. It was renamed in 2012 to the Elizabeth Tower to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee1 of Elizabeth II.
• The origin of the name “Big Ben” is uncertain. Some believe that the Clock Tower was named after Benjamin Hall, a civil engineer and a politician. Others believe that the tower was named after Benjamin Caunt, a heavyweight boxer.
• Each hour hand (the short one) is 2.7 metres long and weighs about 300 kilogrammes. Each minute hand (the long one) is 4.2 metres long and weighs about 100 kilogrammes. The numbers on the dials are about 60 centimetres tall.
• Big Ben has rarely stopped. Even after a bomb destroyed a part of the Houses of Parliament during the Second World War, the Clock Tower survived, and Big Ben continued to strike the hours.
• The clock’s time is adjusted2 every year with an old British penny. If the clock is fast, a penny is added to the pendulum, and if the clock is slow, one is removed.
• The Great Bell was first struck on September 7, 1859.
• The ding-dongs of Big Ben were first broadcast by the BBC on 31 December 1923, a tradition that continues to this day.
• On 27 July 2012, starting at 8:12 a.m., Big Ben rang 30 times to welcome the London Olympic Games (i.e., the 30th Olympiad), which officially began that day.
• Big Ben chimes3 every 15 minutes, and the sound can be heard for a radius of up to 8 kilometres.
• Only UK residents are allowed to see the inside of the tower. To get to the top, they must climb 334 stone spiral steps.
If they are standing in the belfry4 when it rings, visitors can feel the vibrations all the way from their heads to their toes5.

Eva Vartíková

VOCABULARY: 1 [džu:bili:] jubileum; 2 nastavený; 3 zvoniť – zvonit; 4 [belfry] zvonica – zvonice; 5 prsty na nohách