In his own post, DeFrancesco – who’s seen in the clip filming the flashmob on his phone – wrote: “Get ready for the all-time gag!”
Jacobs isn’t the first celebrity to stage an unusual proposal:
Roseanne star Sara Gilbert was proposed to by singer Linda Perry (above) during a picnic in a Los Angeles park – in which Perry sang The Cure’s Love Song, backed by a band, before putting on a series of T-shirts bearing one word each. The message they made was: “Will you marry me?”
Not known for doing things by halves, Kanye West hired out San Francisco’s AT&T Park, booked a live orchestra and proposed via a message on the big screen when he popped the question to Kim Kardashian
Pink was watching her other half, motocross champion Carey Hart, racing when she reportedly wrote “will you marry me?” on a pit board, holding it up in front of the grandstands on his third lap. Slightly distracting, perhaps – but he said yes
Seal proposed to Heidi Klum in an igloo in the Canadian Rockies. Inside was a bed with sheets, rose petals and (perhaps unwisely, given it was an igloo) candles. She said yes, but the pair later split
Under a blazing Brisbane sun, and with coach Josh encouraging her to keep hands loose and legs set, nine-year-old Livinnia Wood begins Wednesday morning training.
Her father, Ray, offers words of support as he patrols the back of the court, pointing out the occasional wolf spider, and collecting in the balls.
The 38-year-old, who was born and raised in Liverpool, is trying to “create two of the greatest female tennis players the planet has ever seen”.
But his approach divides opinion.
“You might as well buy a lottery ticket,” is how tennis great Martina Navratilova sees it.
Two years on from our first meeting, Ray remains confident Livinnia, and her three-year-old sibling Paloma, can one day be like former world number ones Venus and Serena Williams as sisters who make it “to the top of the world”.
“You’ve got to stay fit, you’ve got to stay healthy,” he said.
“Livi’s going to go through the teenage years and has still got to be motivated to play and train.
“But I think if she gets over those hurdles… world number one, majors… it’s not easy, but the more and more research I’ve done, I more than believe in that.”
The family’s next step is likely to be a move to Spain to seek out a more competitive environment.
Are champions born or made?
Last year, Livinnia won 17 competitions at local and state level. She sometimes plays against children five years her senior, and spends between nine and 10 hours a week on the tennis court and four to five hours on the running track.
“First off, try put a little more pressure on these kids, why don’t you?” was 18-time Grand Slam singles champion Navratilova’s response when told about Ray’s plans.
“And I really totally disagree with the idea that champions are made not born. Champions are born, and then they have to have the right environment to be made.
“If the girls are going to be 5ft 2in – not going to happen. Until I was about 12 years old, I played on average maybe four hours a week of tennis – look where it got me.
“If everything goes really well, one of them might get into the top 10 but getting to number one? You might as well buy a lottery ticket.”
The family spend between A$400 and A$500 (£220-£275) a week to fund Livinnia’s tennis, which will of course increase when – as has always been the plan – her younger sister Paloma follows the same path.
Ray, who is a youth technical director for the Brisbane Roar football club, also runs a business which offers sports-based sessions to pre-school children, and has recently become an occasional Uber driver to make ends meet.
A handful of local businesses contribute a small, but not insignificant, amount to the running costs, and the Pacific Sports Management agency is in the process of exploring longer-term options.
“Putting all the eggs into this one basket, it puts a lot of pressure on the kids and I just hope they are happy doing what they are doing,” Navratilova said.
“I have seen this before with parents: girls or boys are on the court three or four hours a day at a young age, and it just doesn’t end well. They get burned out either mentally or physically.
“I wish him well, but I would not be doing this with my kids. Even if they wanted to be champions, I would not be that hard-headed about it.”
Brisbane has been the family’s home for more than half of Livinnia’s life. But the four of them will soon be moving on. They will spend five weeks in Spain this summer – sizing up tennis academies, schools and job options – with a view to moving there permanently in 2019.
The trip will also allow Livinnia to test herself in competition against European players of the same age.
“I think Livi for the next year or two is still going to get a challenge in Australia,” says Ray, who will be looking for work in football having previously coached at Premier League side Leicester City and French giants Paris St-Germain.
“But I think once she gets close to her teenage years, there’s a hell of a lot of the ITF and Futures events in Europe – 200 plus. In Australia, you’re lucky if there’s maybe a handful each year.
“We need to make sure we keep that environment where Livi is constantly struggling and developing, rather than winning all the time. Livi’s been hitting on grass and hard courts for the past four or five years, but as part of her plan and development she’s got to do two to three years on the clay at some point.”
Ray says his Australian wife, Angela, is very supportive, but what about Livinnia herself?
“I don’t really know,” she said, clutching the last of her raspberry and orange flavoured post-training slushy.
“I would like to move there, but I would really miss home because I have a lot of family members here so it’s a bit hard to move.”
That is also a concern for Wim Fissette, the successful WTA coach who has worked with Kim Clijsters, Victoria Azarenka, Simona Halep, Johanna Konta and now Angelique Kerber. He sees advantages in Europe, but does not see a move as essential.
“Australia’s a big country. That’s tough to understand for me,” he says.
“It’s a choice, but I don’t think it’s necessary. We also have to think ‘is the family happy’ because the kids now have a lot of friends in Australia. Should they really move and start a new social life? That’s a difficult question because it will be very important the girls stay very happy in their life – and they will need that in their career.”
Dad hands over coaching reins
In recent months, Ray has handed over the bulk of the coaching duties to Josh Barrenechea, who has a Spanish grandfather and seems open to the idea of joining the family in Europe.
“I love coaching and working with players like Liv and yeah – wherever it takes me – I think I’d be willing to go on that journey,” he said.
“She soaks up all the information, which is really good. She’s got a fantastic eye for the game; she strikes the ball better than any eight- or nine-year-old girl that I’ve seen around here.”
Mindful of the tension which can exist between young players and their parents – Andre Agassi has written of his difficult relationship with a father who was determined to turn him into a champion – Ray seems content to take a backseat.
“I have learned over the past two years why you can have a lot of breakdowns with parents and children when you play tennis,” he said.
“It’s very stressful and it can be very hard, and I actually really enjoy sitting back on the sidelines, picking up balls, letting Josh do his work and not interfering.”
Project champion: Part two
The youngest Wood daughter, Paloma, will begin regular tennis sessions in May, when she turns four. For the moment, her father says, she is out on court once or twice a week for about 20 minutes at a time.
“We’re just trying to get that little bit of intrinsic motivation from her and see if it’s something she’s going to want to crack on with,” Ray said.
“We’ll start her on roughly four hours a week. All fun-based sessions – balloons, ribbons, everything that Livi went through – and then hopefully by the time she’s eight or nine, she’ll have to get to the serious work of sweating and bleeding on the tennis court.”
Paloma is naturally right-handed, but Ray is intending to develop his daughter as a leftie. That worked a treat for Rafael Nadal, who writes – and plays golf – right-handed.
But Navratilova, another great left-hander, strikes a note of caution.
It is no bad thing, she says, to be able to serve with both hands, but she recommends hitting other strokes with the predominant hand. And in her experience, those who do not serve with their naturally stronger hand, tend to be the weaker servers.
Ray says he will respect his daughters’ wishes if ever they decide this lifestyle is no longer for them.
Livinnia says she would like to be a vet after retiring from professional tennis, and says the training is not quite as enjoyable as it used to be.
“When I was younger it was probably a bit more fun, but now I am older I have to work a bit harder in the heat. Josh always pushes me to my top limits and I always get really tired and hot,” she said.
Ray says he has “no qualms” about the route they have chosen for the girls.
“We want the girls to be role models for other children when they grow up,” he said.
“We want them to have foundations and charities. I truly believe we’re put on the world to do a job and my job is to be in and around the coaching industry and to develop my daughters into two sports stars so they can go on and help children who don’t have an opportunity, who don’t have a mum or dad, and who don’t have enough money to put food on the table.”
Fissette thinks Ray is striking a good balance.
“From what I hear, it’s fine,” he said.
“I think because they go to school, they have friends and also the way the father approaches this process, he lets them do different kinds of sports to learn different skills. He sees his role really as a dad, so I think for sure he’s helping the kids the right way.
“But, of course, when the kids get older they will have their own thoughts on how they see their life.”
During a press conference he said that he had previously assumed that if Facebook gave people tools, it was largely their responsibility to decide how to use them.
But he added that it was “wrong in retrospect” to have had such a limited view.
“Today, given what we know… I think we understand that we need to take a broader view of our responsibility,” he said.
“That we’re not just building tools, but that we need to take full responsibility for the outcomes of how people use those tools as well.”
Mr Zuckerberg also announced an internal audit had uncovered a fresh problem. Malicious actors had been abusing a feature that let users search for one another by typing in email addresses or phone numbers into Facebook’s search box.
As a result, many people’s public profile information had been “scraped” and matched to the contact details, which had been obtained from elsewhere.
Facebook has blocked now blocked the facility.
“It is reasonable to expect that if you had that [default] setting turned on, that in the last several years someone has probably accessed your public information in this way,” Mr Zuckerberg said.
The estimates of how many people’s data had been exposed were revealed in a blog by the tech firm’s chief technology officer, Mike Schroepfer.
The BBC has also learned that Facebook now estimates that about 305,000 people had installed the This Is Your Digital Life quiz that had made the data-harvesting possible. The previously suggested figure had been 270,000.
About 97% of the installations occurred within the US. However, just over 16 million of the total number of users affected are thought to be from other countries.
A spokeswoman for the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office told the BBC that it was continuing to assess and consider the evidence before deciding what steps to take.
What is the controversy about?
Facebook has faced intense criticism after it emerged that it had known for years that Cambridge Analytica had collected data from millions of its users, but had relied on the London-based firm to self-certify that it had deleted the information.
Cambridge Analytica said it had bought the information from the creator of the This Is Your Digital Life app without knowing that it had been obtained improperly.
The firm says it deleted all the data as soon as it was made aware of the circumstances.
But Channel 4 News has since reported that at least some of the data in question is still in circulation despite Cambridge Analytica insisting it had destroyed the material.
During Mr Zuckerberg’s press conference, Cambridge Analytica tweeted it had only obtained data for 30 million individuals – not 87 million – from the app’s creator, and again insisted it had deleted all records.
The latest revelations came several hours after the US House Commerce Committee announced that Facebook’s founder, Mark Zuckerberg, would testify before it on 11 April.
Facebook’s share price has dropped sharply in the weeks since the allegations emerged.
In his Wednesday blog post, Mr Schroepfer detailed new steps being taken by Facebook in the wake of the scandal.
a decision to stop third-party apps seeing who is on the guest lists of Events pages and the contents of messages posted on them
a commitment to only hold call and text history logs collected by the Android versions of Messenger and Facebook Lite for a year. In addition, Facebook said the logs would no longer include the time of the calls
a link will appear at the top of users’ News Feeds next week, prompting them to review the third-party apps they use on Facebook and what information is shared as a consequence
Despite the turmoil that continues to surround his company, Mark Zuckerberg has insisted he is still the best person to lead Facebook.
“When you’re building something like Facebook which is unprecedented in the world,” he said on Wednesday, “there are things that you’re going to mess up.
“What I think people should hold us accountable for is if we are learning from our mistakes.”
As well as being Facebook’s chief executive, Mr Zuckerberg is chairman of the company’s board. When asked if his position had been discussed, he replied: “Not that I know of!”
The mere possibility that his leadership is in question is a scenario few would have predicted even a month ago.
But recent reports around improper data gathering by third parties – as well as fake news and propaganda – have prompted some to question Mr Zuckerberg’s ability to lead a company that some think has grown beyond his control.
Indeed, this session with the press was perhaps the ideal dress rehearsal.
The dynamic around Mr Zuckerberg’s leadership could change dramatically in the coming months, as investigations – most notably from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) – begin to probe deeper into how Facebook handled the public’s data.
If the company is seen to have fallen short of its responsibility, and is hit with a potentially enormous fine, it could increase pressure on Facebook to make serious personnel changes.
So far, despite all of the apologies and admissions of poor judgement, Mr Zuckerberg told reporters that not a single person at the company had been fired over the Cambridge Analytica fiasco.
The buck stops with him, he said – and indeed it might.
Earlier on Wednesday, Merseyside Police had issued a statement saying the two team coaches would “not be taking their usual route” because of “building works and to ensure the safety of fans”.
Liverpool also disseminated that information and asked their supporters “to gather to show their passion and support for the team… in a friendly, respectful and considerate manner”.
However, by the time the City coach went past the stadium, a large crowd had gathered outside and cans, bottles and flares were thrown.
The Anfield club told BBC Sport on Thursday that it is common practice to share such information with fans and that, after consultation with police, they felt it was in the interest of public safety to do so.
“Normally when the police know it is going to happen, they tried to avoid it from happening,” said ex-Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss Guardiola. “One year ago something happened in Dortmund.
“We come here to play football and I don’t understand this kind of situation.
“The bus is destroyed but I did not expect a prestigious club like Liverpool doing this kind of thing. It is not Liverpool, it is the people, maybe one, two or three, but hopefully it does not happen again.”
Liverpool said in a statement: “We apologise unreservedly to Pep Guardiola, his players, staff and officials. The priority now is to establish the facts and offer Manchester City whatever support is necessary.”
‘I don’t mind supporters doing that’
Former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard said that the scenes “sour the night for the club”.
“We want a great atmosphere and we want to make it hostile for the opposition but certain individuals have overstepped the line and it’s bang out of order,” he said on BT Sport.
However, Guardiola’s players were keen to play down the incident.
Captain Vincent Kompany said it “had no effect on us” and that it was something they have experienced before, while midfielder Kevin De Bruyne said there was “nothing wrong with it”.
“It was OK,” the Belgian said. “I don’t mind supporters doing that – I’ve had it a couple of times for my team and it’s a nice feeling.
“I am fine with it as long as no one gets hurt. It doesn’t change anything [for the players]. As long as you keep the violence down, there’s nothing wrong with it.”
Salah has now scored 38 goals for Liverpool this season
Liverpool took a firm grip on their Champions League quarter-final as Manchester City were torn apart by a three-goal burst from Jurgen Klopp’s side in the first 31 minutes at Anfield.
City’s only Premier League defeat as they move to the brink of the title has been a 4-3 loss at Anfield in January – and they were made to suffer once more in the face of Liverpool’s pressing, aggression and potent attack.
Mohamed Salah pounced in the area to score his 38th goal of the season after 12 minutes and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain doubled their lead eight minutes later when he unleashed a fierce shot past Ederson from 20 yards.
And the third goal that gives Liverpool such a commanding advantage to take to Etihad Stadium next Tuesday came just after the half-hour when Sadio Mane rose to head home Salah’s cross.
Liverpool, potentially crucially, emerged from the second half without conceding an away goal, although an injury that forced Salah off will be a concern.
Anfield was at its most hostile – but there were unsavoury incidents before kick-off when fans outside the ground attacked and damaged the Manchester City team coach on its way into the stadium, prompting an “unreserved” apology from Liverpool and an investigation from Merseyside Police.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp had the better of his head-to-head meetings with Pep Guardiola before this game with six wins from 12 games – and he outmanoeuvred his illustrious counterpart once more here.
Klopp took this game, if not the entire tie, out of Guardiola’s reach by sticking strictly to his instincts and the fiercely intense pressing style that so unsettled City in their only league defeat of the season.
Liverpool, in Klopp’s trademark style, never took a backward step and have uncovered an approach that rattles City in a manner that has escaped pretty much all of Guardiola’s opponents in this stellar season for his side.
They never allowed City to relax into their passing style, with the likes of David Silva in particular simply not afforded the time and space that has seen teams picked apart in their runaway league campaign.
And Klopp also has the attacking weapons that make Liverpool a team to fear in the shape of the potent triumvirate of Salah, Mane and the underrated Brazilian Roberto Firmino, a trio good enough to expose City’s defensive flaws.
It was Firmino who picked City apart for the opening goal for Salah, while the Egyptian turned provider for Mane’s header to put Liverpool three up before half-time.
Guardiola, meanwhile, had a rare night when his tactics went awry and his team selection was questionable.
Aymeric Laporte’s selection on the left side of City’s defence against Salah was always heavily laden with risk and so it proved as he struggled desperately to contain a series of Liverpool raids down his flank. He may have played with comfort against Everton’s limp attack on Saturday but this was a different league.
Most contentious of all was the exclusion of Raheem Sterling, in such wonderful form, to accommodate Ilkay Gundogan in midfield.
Sterling has suffered on previous visits to Anfield since his £49m move from Liverpool, becoming a target for sustained abuse from his former supporters.
Guardiola perhaps had that in mind when he made this surprise choice but City were left looking unbalanced. Gundogan, a fine player, was peripheral and it was no surprise when he was eventually replaced by Sterling.
This was not a good night for Manchester City or Guardiola. They will need a faultless one next Tuesday.
Sloppy Man City pay the price
Manchester City started well and in composed fashion as they attempted to douse the flames of a fiery Anfield atmosphere – but it all went wrong from the moment they conceded the first goal to the prolific Salah.
City’s defence, so rarely put under stress this season, was a mess as Ederson saved from Firmino, Kyle Walker clearing the ball back into the Brazilian’s path to set up Salah, whose finish was a formality given his form and confidence.
It gave Liverpool the perfect start and they doubled that advantage eight minutes later when James Milner nicked possession and City’s rearguard inexplicably stood off Oxlade-Chamberlain, offering an open invitation he accepted by rifling a powerful rising finish past Ederson.
There must also be questions about how the diminutive Mane was allowed to rise with ease between Walker and Vincent Kompany to head Liverpool’s third just after the half-hour.
City’s normally precise attacking play was beyond them in the second half when they did finally claim the share of possession they craved as they attacked The Kop end.
They were able to fashion several dangerous positions but were sloppy and wasteful as Liverpool avoided any moments of serious anxiety.
Is this tie already decided?
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp was in celebratory mood after the final whistle as he applauded The Kop and whirled his fists in front of Anfield’s giant Main Stand.
It was easy to see why – but Liverpool will be taking nothing for granted against a side of City’s quality and attacking threat.
Liverpool, however, have secured the sort of result they would have dreamed of before kick-off with a three-goal lead to take into the second leg and that vital clean sheet to act as added insurance.
And, significantly, Liverpool have just the sort of attack to punish a team pushing for goals, as City will need to do next Tuesday.
Guardiola, whose team could clinch the title if they beat Manchester United at Etihad Stadium on Saturday, will not be giving this one up yet but City will need to be flawless in all the areas they were flaky here if they are to mount one of the great Champions League comebacks.
Man of the Match – Roberto Firmino (Liverpool)
Milner, king of the assists – the stats
Liverpool are unbeaten at home in European competition since October 2014 (0-3 vs Real Madrid) and have extended their run without defeat to 15 European games at Anfield (W10 D5).
Manchester City failed to direct a single shot on target in a game for the first time since 26 October 2016 (v Man Utd in the League Cup).
Pep Guardiola has enjoyed just one win in his past six meetings with Jurgen Klopp in all competitions (D2 L3), with Klopp registering more wins against the Spaniard than any other manager (6).
Liverpool are the top-scoring side in the Champions League this season with 31 goals.
Indeed, that 31-goal haul is the Reds’ biggest tally ever in a single campaign in the competition.
18% of the goals Manchester City have conceded this season in all competitions have been scored by Liverpool (7/38).
Mohamed Salah has been directly involved in nine goals in his nine Champions League appearances this season (7 goals, 2 assists).
Overall, Salah has bagged 38 goals in all competitions this season; of players in Europe’s big five leagues, only Cristiano Ronaldo can better that tally (39).
James Milner has registered seven assists in the Champions League this season, three more than any other player.
Earlier, Beijing said it “strongly condemns and firmly opposes” the proposed US tariffs, calling them “unilateralistic and protectionist”, and vowing to retaliate.
It then responded with specifics, as the Chinese finance ministry published a list of its own.
The products targeted by the Chinese tariffs were worth $50bn (£35.5bn) in 2017, according to the Chinese commerce ministry.
US chemicals, some types of aircraft and corn products are among the goods facing the taxes, the finance ministry said.
Extra tariffs will also be placed on whiskey, cigars and tobacco, some types of beef, lubricants, and propane and other plastic products.
US orange juice, certain sorghum products, cotton and some types of wheat, as well as trucks, some SUVs and certain electric vehicles, will also be subject to the new duties, the ministry added.
Economists had previously warned the Trump administration’s move to penalise China with the tariffs could prompt Beijing to retaliate and lead to higher prices for US consumers.
The planned US tariffs are the result of an investigation ordered by US President Donald Trump into China’s intellectual property practices.
Last month, he said the inquiry had found evidence of problems, such as practices that pressure US companies to share technology with Chinese firms
The office of the US Trade Representative, which handles trade negotiations, said that its tariffs would apply to about $50bn of Chinese imports.
That was an amount which was “appropriate both in light of the estimated harm to the US economy and to obtain elimination of China’s harmful acts, policies and practices”, it said.
The list includes parts of communication satellites, semiconductors, aviation equipment and brewery machinery, as well as more niche products such as bakery ovens and rocket launchers.
A final list will be determined after a public comment period and review, expected to last about two months.
Beijing has been adamant that it did not want a trade war, but that it would not not back down under US pressure.
“Any attempt to bring China to its knees through threats and intimidation will never succeed. It will not succeed this time either,” foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said.
“There is no winner in a trade war, and an initiator will harm itself as well as others.”
Mr Geng said China had referred the US to the World Trade Organization.
Hopes for a resolution
China’s economy has become less dependent on selling goods abroad in recent years, which is likely to blunt the effect of the US tariffs, according to analysts for S&P Global Ratings.
The US was the destination for about 18.2% of all Chinese exports in 2016, according to the US trade department.
American business groups have urged the two sides to try to resolve the issues through talks, expressing concern that threatening tariffs could lead to a dispute that hurts the US economy.
“The administration is rightly focused on restoring equity and fairness in our trade relationship with China,” said the US Chamber of Commerce.
“However, imposing taxes on products used daily by American consumers and job creators is not the way to achieve those ends.”
Speaking before Beijing announced its retaliatory measures, Joseph Brusuelas, chief economist at RSM US, said he did not think the Chinese would take the US list seriously, pointing to low-demand items such as monitors with video cassette recorders.
Instead, he said the main outcome was likely to be higher prices for US manufacturers – and eventually, consumers.
That may not be enough to persuade the Trump administration to opt for a different strategy, he added.
“At this point, if the Trump administration does not follow through on this, they’re going to lose face and credibility,” he said.
Rupali Meshram (left) took a selfie with her mother soon after the attack
A young Indian woman was lucky to survive, doctors say, after she fought off a tiger which attacked her goat.
Rupali Meshram, 23, said when she heard the goat scream she ran out of her house in western Maharashtra state.
She picked up a stick and hit the tiger, which then attacked her. Her mother, who was also injured, saved her by pulling her inside the house.
They both sustained only minor injuries and have now been discharged from hospital. The goat did not survive.
Ms Meshram took a selfie soon after the attack, which happened last week but has only just come to light. Her face is a mask of blood.
A doctor who treated her praised her “exemplary courage” in fighting off the tiger, but said she was lucky not to have been bitten by the animal.
Ms Meshram suffered injuries to her head, waist, legs and hands, but they were only superficial and she has been able to make a full recovery.
Because of her head injury she was given a CT scan and kept under observation.
“I thought my daughter was going to die,” her mother Jijabhai told BBC Hindi’s Sanjay Tiwari, adding that she had been horrified to see her blood-stained daughter trying to fend off the tiger with a stick.
A photo of Rupali taken by the BBC shows no obvious signs of injuries, 10 days on from the attack.
Her mother was struck by the tiger near her eye, as she pulled her daughter to safety, but her wounds are healing well too.
It was spring when I reached the end of the world. On that mid-September day it was cold and raining in the city of Ushuaia, Argentina, but the sky cleared as I trekked nearby Tierra del Fuego National Park, allowing the sun to reflect off crisp glacial waters and snow-covered mountains.
In 1520, Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan would have seen a similar view as he led his Spanish fleet into the region. He travelled along a strait (later named after him) between mainland South America and a windswept archipelago he called Tierra del Fuego (Land of Fire) for the small fires he spotted along the shore. For thousands of years, the indigenous community here, the Yaghan, lit fires to keep warm and to communicate with each other. The flames burned in their forests, amid mountains, valleys and rivers, and atop the long canoes they steered over chilly waters.
Fire is more than something that brings us warmth in such a hostile place – It served as an inspiration for many things
Sixteen years ago, Cristina Calderon – one of the estimated 1,600 Yaghan descendants still living around their ancestral grounds – started the annual tradition of lighting three fires on Playa Larga in Ushuaia, a beach where ancient Yaghans gathered. Taking place every 25 November, the act recalls the Yaghan custom of lighting three fires to announce the arrival of a whale or a banquet of fish that everyone would eat. Releasing smoke signals was a way to convene the entire tribe, and it was common for them to share food and eat communally along the coast.
“The importance of the fire is more than something that brings us warmth in such a hostile place,” Victor Vargas Filgueira, a Yaghan guide at the (End of the World Museum) in Ushuaia told me. “It served as an inspiration for many things.”
The city of Ushuaia, Argentina, is often referred to as the southernmost city in the world (Credit: Andres Camacho/Municipality of Ushu
That inspiration can be seen in a word that has garnered rapturous admirers and inspired many flights of the imagination. Mamihlapinatapai comes from the near-extinct Yaghan language. According to Vargas’ own interpretation, “It is the moment of meditation around the pusakí [fire in Yaghan] when the grandparents transmit their stories to the young people. It’s that instant in which everyone is quiet.”
But since the 19th Century, the word has held a different meaning – one to which people all over the world relate.
Magellan’s discovery of a ‘land of fire’ prompted more long-distance voyages to the region. In the 1860s, British missionary and linguist Thomas Bridges. He spent the next 20 years living among the Yaghans and compiled around 32,000 of their words and inflections in a. The English translation of mamihlapinatapai, which differs from Vargas’ interpretation, debuted in an essay by Bridges: “To look at each other, hoping that either will offer to do something, which both parties much desire done but are unwilling to do.”
Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan named this region Tierra del Fuego (Land of Fire) after seeing the Yaghans’ fires along the shore (Credit: Anna Bitong)
“Bridges’ dictionary records ihlapi, ‘awkward’, from which one could derive ihlapi-na, ‘to feel awkward’; ihlapi-na-ta, ‘to cause to feel awkward’; and mam-ihlapi-na-ta-pai, something like ‘to make each other feel awkward’ in a literal translation,” said Yoram Meroz, one of the few linguists who have studied the Yaghan language. “[Bridges’ translation] is more of an idiomatic or free translation.”
However, the word does not appear in Bridges’ dictionary – perhaps because it was seldom used, or possibly because he planned to include the word in the third edition of the dictionary, which he was working on before he died in 1898.
“It could be that he heard the word once or twice in that particular context, and that’s how he wrote it, because he wasn’t aware of its more general meaning. Or that it was only used in this more specific meaning that he quotes,” Meroz explained. “Bridges knew Yahgan better than any European before or since. However, he was sometimes prone to exoticising the language, and to being very verbose in his translations.”
Accurate or not, Bridges’ translation of mamihlapinatapai sparked a widespread fascination with the word that continues to this day. “The word got popularised by Bridges and was quoted and re-quoted in English-language materials,” Meroz said.
The Yaghan people have lived in Tierra del Fuego for thousands of years (Credit: INTERFOTO/Alamy)
In many interpretations, the word came to signify a look between would-be lovers. On the internet, its definition is worded slightly differently as ‘a look shared by two people, each wishing that the other would initiate something that they both desire but which neither wants to begin’. Films, music, art, literature and poetry have all conjured its seemingly implicit romance and marvelled at its supposed ability to concisely capture a complex human interaction. The 1994 Guinness Book of World Records even listed mamihlapinatapai as the world’s most succinct word.
“The meaning is quite beautiful,” says a girl in the 2011 crowdsourced documentary Life in a Day, which portrays a single day on Earth. “It can be perhaps two tribal leaders both wanting to make peace, but neither wanting to be the one to begin it. Or it could be two people at a party wanting to approach each other, and neither are quite brave enough to make the first move.”
But what mamihlapinatapai actually meant to the Yaghans will likely remain a mystery. Now 89 years old, Calderon is the last fluent speaker of Yaghan, a language isolate whose origins remain unknown. Born on Isla Navarino, Chile, across the Beagle Channel from Ushuaia, she didn’t learn Spanish until she was nine years old. Meroz has visited Calderon several times to translate Yaghan recordings and texts. But when he asked her about mamihlapinatapai, she did not recognise the word.
“Most of her life, she hasn’t had many people to talk with in Yaghan,” Meroz said. “So if she doesn’t remember that particular [word] offhand, that doesn’t prove a whole lot.”
Cristina Calderon (left) is the last fluent speaker of the Yaghan language (Credit: MARTIN BERNETTI/Getty Images)
Will the obscure word be the sole survivor of a dying language?
“It used to be called a moribund language,” Meroz said. “I think these days people would describe it in more optimistic terms, especially the Yaghans themselves. There’s room for revitalisation.”
Calderon and her granddaughter, Cristina Zarraga, have led occasional Yaghan language workshops in Puerto Williams, a naval town on Isla Navarino near her hometown of Villa Ukika. Calderon’s children were the first generation to grow up speaking Spanish, as Yaghan speakers at that time were mocked. But the Chilean government has recently encouraged the use and maintenance of native languages, and Yaghan is now taught in local kindergartens.
“It’s nice to have a native speaker around to ask questions,” Meroz said of Calderon. “And there are always more questions to be asked.”
Calderon has been working with linguists to preserve the Yaghan language (Credit: MARTIN BERNETTI/Getty Images)
Many of the complexities of the Yaghan language trace back to how their ancient way of life intertwined with nature. Meroz recalled how Calderon described birds taking flight in Yaghan, using one verb for a single bird and another for a flock of birds. Similarly, there are different words for launching one or several canoes. There are separate words for eating: “a general word for eating, a word for eating fish, and a word for eating shellfish,” Meroz said.
With few words, we say a lot
In the 19th Century, as contact between Europeans and Yaghans became more frequent, new diseases decimated the population and the Yaghans lost much of their land to European settlers. Vargas’ great-grandfather, Asenewensis, was among the last Yaghans to live as the tribe had for millennia, searching the cold waters for food on his canoe and finding warmth and community around the fire. In many ways, he was the inspiration for Vargas’s book, (My Yaghan Blood).
Vargas remembers listening to the language spoken by his family’s elders. “I watched the older Yaghans speak and cut into words with silence,” he said. “They spoke slowly, with pauses, making little sound. With few words, we say a lot.”
The complexities of the language reflect how the Yaghans interacted with their natural surroundings (Credit: Anna Bitong)
He often visits places where his Yaghan ancestors gathered along the coastline of the 240km-long Beagle Channel, which separates Ushuaia from Isla Navarino. The windy strait is speckled with rocky islands teeming with aquatic wildlife. Black-striped Magellanic penguins and orange-beaked Gentoo penguins waddle across the shore of the Yécapasela Reserve on Isla Martillo, oblivious to people nearby. South American sea lions and fur seals lounge on craggy coastlines.
At campsites around Ushuaia, Vargas lights fires on the ground and experiences what he believes to be mamihlapinatapai.
“It’s what I’ve felt many times with my friends far away in nature, around the fire,” he said. “We’re talking and suddenly there’s silence. That is the moment of mamihlapinatapai.”