Archive for Language

How to fathom a lightyear?

Britain and the US are famously separated by a common language.

And it’s not just our currency that’s different from the rest of Europe.

I’m a Euro-phile, but I still think of distances in miles, my weight in pounds, my height in feet and the weather in farenheit.

So here’s a handy online converter for the metric martyrs out there. (Hat-tip to Stephen Abrams.)

It even helps you with your Morse code: ..-./.-/-…/

By the way, the answer is 5021496815286624.

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Blog on the couch

A little while ago there was a flurry of interest in sexing your blog.

Not sexing-up you understand, but decoding its gender.

I initially came out as male, apparently because I use the I word a lot (hard not to on a first-person blog). Women tend to be less obviously self-centred than men, is the theory. But I can’t think of my blog as a boy. So it’s a relief to find I now come out as 94% woman!

Then there was the US reading level grading, but it’s offline at present. Anyone know where it’s gone?

Now e-library guru Stephen Abrams has found this tool that gives your blog a Myers Briggs analysis.

My blog comes out as ESTP – The Doers

“The active and playful type. They are especially attuned to people and things around them and often full of energy, talking, joking and engaging in physical out-door activities.

“The Doers are happiest with action-filled work which craves their full attention and focus. They might be very impulsive and more keen on starting something new than following it through. They might have a problem with sitting still or remaining inactive for any period of time.”

So that wouldn’t include sitting around blogging then :-)

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I am woman! I am invincible! I am pooped!

We know that feeling…

One of a selection of feminist quotes here.

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What’s in a name?

Oh dear.

A library in North America is using automatic voicemails to alert borrowers when their loans are overdue. The software (not from my firm!) translates codes and abbreviations to generate the messages. It’s like the opposite of voice-recognition software that changes your speech into text.

Compared to sending letters, it’s a neat way to save time and money for the library, and give library users prompt warning so they can avoid fines. So far so good.

Except that this library reports that customers called Mia Jones get addressed as “Missing in Action” Jones. Readers with the surname of Pow get called “prisoner of war”.

As one librarian comments, “We just hope we never have someone register with the name of Doa!”

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“Ideas won’t go to jail”

That’s just one of many great anti-censorship quotes listed here.

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Subtitles strike again

Watching the Politics Show, there’s an item on the EU with Nigel Farage of UKIP.

The BBC persist in taunting him by pronouncing his name continental-style as Faraarge instead of the robustly British Farridge, but he takes it in good part.

I disagree totally with UKIP on the Euro: leaving politics aside, I know my firm would find it much harder and more expensive to trade as we do in France, Spain, the Netherlands and Ireland, if we had to deal with four currencies instead of one.

Anyway, while Nigel was ranting about the Euro, the subtitles described it as urea. Of course, that could be what he meant.

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Cheque, mate?

I got out my cheque book this morning to pay a couple of bills.

Cheques are a bit of a rarity now, although it’s still how I pay the milkman. And many of the small voluntary groups I support prefer payment by cheque. But for most payments, cheques are a thing of the past. Sainsburys is just one example; they stopped taking cheques last year. After all with the ease of debit cards and online banking, why not?

In the days when computers had their own room, I started university not with a laptop but a typewriter. Now typewriters are museum pieces; my colleague Neil was telling us the other day how he had to explain typewriters to his young nieces when they saw some in an exhibition. As a language student, I remember we had recordings of spoken French to transcribe from a cassette tape which would be passed round the group. Much easier to download the relevant mp3.

I think cheques will survive a little longer, if only for sending birthday money. When they do disappear, I’ll miss the old linguists’ joke: in the US you pay your check with a bill, but in the UK you pay your bill with a cheque.

And they’ll be missed from political rhetoric too. We like to remind people that Gordon Brown ‘signed the cheques’ for the Iraq war. Somehow saying he ‘swiped his card’ doesn’t have the same ring to it.

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