conuly: (Default)
What do you know! If this keeps up, we may get a white Christmas for a change.

Removing DRM increases sales

We are very, very bad at washing our hands, says science

Judge's word on NSA program won't be the last

If this judge doesn’t buy the legal basis for the NSA’s intrusive phone snooping, no one should.

Study finds evidence of domesticated Chinese cats 5,300 years ago

A brief history of African click words

Autism hits Somali kids harder, University of Minnesota study finds

Freedoms for Saudi university girls end at gates

The NSA: An Inside View [blog-post]

The Odd Rise of Anonymous Sources

Paul Dini Tells Kevin Smith about Hollywood’s Fear of Girl Cooties

Barbie and Elevator Guy: science and sexism

(Yes, I know it's old.)
conuly: (Default)
Hanged/hung distinction. Not that it comes up that often, but it's really never made much sense to me to have it.
conuly: (Default)
Visualizing word origins. (Okay, it's a link to a link. Sue me.)
conuly: (Default)

This is a video of a subway station that's got a single step people tend to trip on. Hours after this video was posted the MTA started trying to fix it, although they're apparently not sure of the best solution yet.

But look at the captioning within the first 15 seconds. "This station has something which makes it unique from every other station in the city."

I've heard more unique and most unique (and no, I don't like them either, especially as there's no word to plug the gap if "unique" takes the place of "unusual", but I would be surprised if the tide changes on this one just because *I* don't like it) but "unique from" is a new one to me! I suppose it makes logical sense... sorta. I wouldn't say "unusual from" either, but I guess in this case he's using "unique" to mean something more like "different".

Anybody else ever heard this? Unique from. I wonder if it's unique to him.
conuly: A picture of the Castleton Castle. Quote: "Where are our dreams? Where are our castles?" (castle)
Apparently some languages (or at least one language, and that's Welsh) have a separate marker for some singular objects. That is, some nouns have the plural as their default and the singular is a suffix.

Isn't that cool?

Wikipedia compares this to English mass nouns, which reminds me. A while back I was checking up the etymology of asparagus and I found this whole discussion on what the plural of asparagus is. Sadly, I could not join in, because I wanted so much to point out that it doesn't have a plural, it's not a count noun. But that answer raises so many new questions, mostly "Why the heck can't you count asparagus?" It's not like water or air or even rice and sand. It's asparagus, so why can't I go "one asparagus, two asparaguses, three asparagi, four!" like potatoes? Or maybe other people can do that, but I find myself referring exclusively to bites or stalks or bunches of the stuff instead.

And for that matter, why broccoli? I can't have one broccoli, but I can have one head or stalk or bowl of broccoli. I can count cabbages but not broccoli? Something is broken in the English language here, guys!
conuly: (Default)
Logically speaking, shouldn't that spelling result in the pronunciation "sug jest" instead of "suh jest"? What the heck is that extra g doing there? Twiddling its thumbs? Picking its nose? Doing the hula? Plotting world domination via illogical orthography?

Interestingly, says that it's from the past participle of "suggerere", which looks like somebody hiccuped while typing. Or speaking, the Romans not having keyboards.

Edit: I now have three comments going "But I do say it that way". For two of you, please confirm: That's sug jest, with the g as in girl?

I've never, ever, ever heard it that way, but assuming that this pronunciation didn't spring up because of the spelling (which is why Brits now say the H in "herb") it all makes sense now!

Merriam-Webster includes that pronunciation, but the OED doesn't.
conuly: (Default)
Even though it irks me that there is exactly one female character on this show, the lead's fiancee (and she barely shows up except as somebody he ought to dump for her safety). I mean, really, there's no excuse for that.

But I keep watching it for two reasons.

1. Due to the near total lack of women on the show, the slash pretty much writes itself.

I mean, seriously, watch this clip and tell me you didn't immediately think of a dozen ways to fit in that little bit of information into varying levels of smut.

2. I'm waiting with bated breath in hopes that they'll find a way to reference Grimm's Law on the show. It's pretty unlikely, I admit, but I'd be very annoyed if they did and I missed it. This may be the geekiest thing I've said all year.
conuly: (Default)
So, here we are, elsewhere on the internet, up for a rousing discussion on gay marriage. (Side note - check out this super sweet commercial on marriage equality! Aw!)

And by "rousing discussion" I mean "we're totally right, and trouncing the opposition, but they're too stupid to realize that", of course :P

So anyway, one of them pulls out ye olde etymological fallacy. I don't define marriage, the dictionary does, so take it up with Webster, he says.

And he even provides a link to Merriam-Webster's page for "marriage".

Important rule when talking to people: Just because they cite something doesn't mean they actually cited anything. It's easy to forget this and assume that nobody would be dishonest enough to claim a source says something it doesn't - but yes, Virginia, there are people like that.

I am all ready to go off on my pre-defined tangent about how dictionaries are at the service of speakers and NOT the other way around, and how our language choices are pre-eminent. I point out that the OED's definition of marriage, in its very FIRST sense, states that the word is "The term is now sometimes used with reference to long-term relationships between partners of the same sex." (Indeed, definition 1a from the OED doesn't preclude same-sex marriages at all. It says "the state of being a husband OR a wife" not "the state of being one of a mixed-sex pair of husband AND wife".)

And then after I'm done with the comment, it occurs to me that it's a little strange that Webster is so far behind the times. I mean, get with the 21st century already! So, I clicked the link. (I'd forgotten the rule. This rule is even more important than the rule about "don't read the comments", which I obviously was already breaking.)

a (1) : the state of being united to a person of the opposite sex as husband or wife in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law (2) : the state of being united to a person of the same sex in a relationship like that of a traditional marriage

Read it and weep. Or rejoice, rather.

And you know, the fallacy at first seemed just inane. But linking to the dictionary which goes ahead and says outright that you're wrong? That goes past "inane" and even "ignorant" straight into "willful ignorance", and that is a thing I cannot abide*. HONESTLY!

*That and hypocrisy, although I still find it funny when these guys get caught with gay hookers. It's the twofer of "gay" plus "hooker" that really makes me giggle. I shouldn't find it as amusing as I do.

Oh look.

Nov. 2nd, 2011 11:28 am
conuly: (brain)
An article on why we should reform English orthography.

Now, do you think there's a sensible comment in the lot? Do you think anybody commenting there has any idea of how language works? Because if you do, you're in for a shock!

No, it's all "Oh, you want to dumb down the language" and "Oh, obviously my variety is better than yours because yours is wrong" and "Oh, you must hate English". Blah, blah, blah. If people will persist in being ignorant all the time, can't they at least be ignorant in different ways?
conuly: Fuzzy picture of the Verrazano Bridge. Quote in Cursive Hebrew (bridge-hebrew dvora)
Even though it reads like it is.

It literally has to be read to be believed, and maybe not even then. I'm going to go ahead and bold the actual quotes that made me simultaneously laugh and weep.

‘Haboobs’ Stir Critics in Arizona

PHOENIX — The massive dust storms that swept through central Arizona this month have stirred up not just clouds of sand but a debate over what to call them.

The blinding waves of brown particles, the most recent of which hit Phoenix on Monday, are caused by thunderstorms that emit gusts of wind, roiling the desert landscape. Use of the term “haboob,” which is what such storms have long been called in the Middle East, has rubbed some Arizona residents the wrong way.

“I am insulted that local TV news crews are now calling this kind of storm a haboob,” Don Yonts, a resident of Gilbert, Ariz., wrote to The Arizona Republic after a particularly fierce, mile-high dust storm swept through the state on July 5. “How do they think our soldiers feel coming back to Arizona and hearing some Middle Eastern term?”

Diane Robinson of Wickenburg, Ariz., agreed, saying the state’s dust storms are unique and ought to be labeled as such.

“Excuse me, Mr. Weatherman!” she said in a letter to the editor. “Who gave you the right to use the word ‘haboob’ in describing our recent dust storm? While you may think there are similarities, don’t forget that in these parts our dust is mixed with the whoop of the Indian’s dance, the progression of the cattle herd and warning of the rattlesnake as it lifts its head to strike.”

Dust storms are a regular summer phenomenon in Arizona, and the news media typically label them as nothing more than that. But the National Weather Service, in describing this month’s particularly thick storm, used the term haboob, which was widely picked up by the news media.

“Meteorologists in the Southwest have used the term for decades,” said Randy Cerveny, a climatologist at Arizona State University. “The media usually avoid it because they don’t think anyone will understand it.”

Not everyone was put out by the use of the term. David Wilson of Goodyear, Ariz., said those who wanted to avoid Arabic terms should steer clear of algebra, zero, pajamas and khaki, as well. “Let’s not become so ‘xenophobic’ that we forget to remember that we are citizens of the world, nor fail to recognize the contributions of all cultures to the richness of our language,” he wrote.

Although use of the term often brings smirks, Mr. Cerveny said the walls of dust could have serious consequences, toppling power lines and causing huge traffic accidents. Although ultradry conditions in the desert are considered one cause for the intensity of this year’s storms, Mr. Cerveny pointed to another possible factor: the housing bust that left developments half-finished and unmaintained, creating more desert dust to be stirred up.

I'm not sure which quote is more offensive and, frankly, stupid. Let's have a poll!

Poll #7578 Offensive quotes
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 9

Which quote is worst?

View Answers

Mr. "Our soldiers are too wussy for words! Really!"
3 (33.3%)

Ms. "Indians! Rattlesnakes! Cattle! You don't have rights to the language you speak, because I don't believe in freedom of speech!"
6 (66.7%)

I'm guessing that these people not only never drink... alcohol, they also don't use the common terms for geographical structures such as mesas.

If some of these folks succeed in getting the cash to build a wall, can we build it around THEM personally and claim it's keeping the rest of the world out rather than keeping them in?
conuly: Fuzzy picture of the Verrazano Bridge. Quote in Cursive Hebrew (bridge-hebrew dvora)
One on how texting may be helping endangered languages. If that's true - cool.

An article on Ravelry

And one on extreme couponing

And of course this amusing one. I say "amusing", I don't really mean it. Apparently, in some places, owning your own land doesn't give you the right to plant a damn vegetable garden. And why? Because there are people in this world who insist on making up their own definitions of words.
conuly: (can't)
The point being that you probably shouldn't overuse them.

Well, I could've told you that. Any small child will end every last sentence with an exclamation point. They write notes around the house that run: I love you! And I love Mommy! And I love food! and include no irony whatsoever.

It's very tiring to read, though adorable, and this is small children. You are probably not a small child, and shouldn't write like one. Write like a grown-up. Exclamation points, used sparingly, add spice to your work. Used all the time, they just look childish.

Of course, when you're writing informally, see if I care.

Read more... )
conuly: (internet)
What do you say when somebody's in trouble?

A note on my comment: Although everybody says it's true that different neighborhoods in NYC don't *really* speak that differently from each other, it's absolutely been my observation that When I Lived in Bensonhurst quite a few of the people around me (not my family, but neighbors and whatnot) said "youse", and since I've lived on Staten Island I haven't heard it once. I don't know if people in Bensonhurst *still* say youse, but it only took me, like, a day to move. One day I'm hearing it from my dance teachers and neighbors and all, the next I'm not.

On a semi-related note (well, not really), last week or the week before Castle really bugged me. Quite aside from the made up UNY (given that there is CUNY, SUNY, and NYU, two of which are in the top three largest university systems in the nation and the last of which is quite famous and prestigious in its own right, it might have behooved them to be a little more creative than "UNY" when making up a college), there were repeated comments that "nobody gets out of this neighborhood" and whatnot.

I actually screamed at the TV at one point. People get out of Bensonhurst all the time. Mostly, I think they come to Staten Island. Half the time you meet somebody with an Italian name around here, and you get to talking, and five minutes into the conversation they tell you they come from Bensonhurst originally. The other half of the time they came from Bay Ridge. I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of them end up in Jersey either, once they move.
conuly: (Default)
Evangeline has one really cute grammatical quirk, and I'll see if I can describe it.

When she means to say things like "Give it to me" she always, invariably, says "Give me it!"

This isn't wrong exactly - "Give me the book" or "Give me Baby Jill" sound just fine - but it's certainly not the way any of us would normally say it.

BREAKING NEWS: There are two small birds outside my window. Can't get a good picture. They're about the size of my fist, gray-brown all over but fading into an orangey-red on their heads. Beaks are not any bright color. What are they?


She uses this format for other sentences other than "Give me it!" but for the life of me I can't think of any specific examples. The whined "Give me it!" is too much a part of my life right now!

Ana also has a quirk at the moment. Sometimes, as we all do, she carefully will e nun ciate to make sure she is heard. For example, she'll say things like "That is BET TER!" making sure that you cannot possibly confuse it for "bedder". However, she can't spell (well, not well, anyway) so in her quest to Speak Correctly she'll often replace actual ds with ts when doing so - "She is LOU TER THAN ME!" No, Ana, she's not.

Oh well, she'll get there too.
conuly: Fuzzy picture of the Verrazano Bridge. Quote in Cursive Hebrew (bridge)

I was thinking about that post *twice* today, both because of swimming.

See, we caved and signed the nieces up at the YMCA so they can take swimming lessons. I mean, you can take the lessons without being a member, but it's twice as much. And in order to make the membership pay off they're also taking Tae Kwon Do and Ana is doing a Double Dutch class after her swimming. (Actually, if we get our act together we may be eligible for financial aid, but that's beside the point right now.)

Because Evangeline is under 6, she and Ana aren't in the same swimming class. This is very annoying, because Evangeline's class starts at 3:30 and only runs for half an hour. There is no earthly way we can make it on time taking the bus, so instead we have to shell out $8 for car service. You can't miss the first 10 minutes of a 30 minute class!

Anyway, today we were in the car on this beautiful day, and Ana, recognizing the beauty of this day, asked me to "crank down the window".

1. I don't say that, I say "open the window" or very maybe "roll down the window", but I don't think I've said "roll down the window" in a while. Hard to tell now that I'm thinking about it!

2. To my knowledge, Ana and Evangeline have been in a car with a crank for the window exactly once. It was a momentous occasion.

So I noticed this, commented on it, and resolved to post about it... which I've just done.

At the Y I quickly got Evangeline changed (by this I mean I stood there while Evangeline changed her clothes. I did NOT, like some people, dress her like a doll. I don't know why people do that to their four and five year olds), ran her through the shower, waved to her teacher, and skedaddled. (For some reason, scads of other grown-ups hang around the tiny window at the other end of the pool to watch. Bringing a book seems more sensible to me, I don't know.)

Or I meant to skedaddle (funny looking word), anyway, back to the waiting room where I could make sure Ana finished her homework... but I was too busy staring at the emergency phone.

The emergency phone is red, and it has a red sign next to it with the words "Emergency phone Dial 911" written in white. The words are, swear to god, written over the image of an actual phone dial. Like, for a rotary phone!

In my life, I can recall seeing only ONE rotary phone, and it was nearly obsolete then, but you don't expect NYC public schools to throw out perfectly good phones just because they're old, do you? So my jaw kinda dropped a little and I groped for my own phone to take a pic. Alas, I'd left it with Ana, so that didn't happen, but it will next week! (I may also open the box to see if the phone matches the image, but I don't know, people may not approve of my curiosity.)
conuly: Discworld quote: "The new day is a great big fish!" (fish)
Once you know about it, you see it everywhere... probably even in places where it isn't. I wonder why it fell out of fashion and we no longer make new words that way. It's not even something people would know what you were doing if you randomly did it.

Yes, I only posted this to help get back on schedule.
conuly: Picture of a young River Tam. Quote: Independent thought, independent lives, independent dreams (independent)
Now, I will absolutely go on record as saying that I think rules mandating certain styles of hair in public schools, except for legitimate safety concerns (no long hair when working in chem lab, that sort of thing) are absurd. I think the reasoning ("Oh, so disruptive!") is asinine and I think that your control over how your students look should stop when they're outside of school grounds - which means that you shouldn't be able to control how they color their hair, because they can't just take dye on and off like a wig.

But this is all beside the point, very same-old, same-old.

No, no - what's funny is the comments. As one person put it, it's clear from the spelling that SOME of these commenters were unreasonably distracted by dyed hair when they were in school!

My personal favorite has to be a three-person exchange that runs like this:

Person A: Blah, blah, blah sheeple.
Person B: (this is an exact quote!) Oh, and what is a sheeples? I take it she meant sheeps. Must be a blond grandma, or maybe it is dye job!
Person C: Actually, sheeple means....
Person B again: (another exact quote!) Well # 26, sheeple is a slang word. It is not in websters online dictionary, but it is in an online slang dictionary. But you are correct it is a word, but it is not a real word.

Quite aside from the absurdity of taking language advice from somebody who thinks the plural of "sheep" is "sheeps", there is no such thing as "not a real word" except for things which, you know, AREN'T real words, like "crampstantion". (I just made that up. If it is a real word, whoops!)

But because I *can*, I went and looked it up in the OED. Guess what? It's in there, with citations as far back as 1945!

And the OED actually is the be-all and end-all of the dictionary world. (Sheeple is also in Collins' dictionary, apparently. Thank you, google!) I don't claim to understand how, exactly, lexicographers practice their arcane arts, but I trust that they know what they're doing. (If nothing else, they know better than to talk about words not being "real". What nonsense is that? If I know what it means and you know what it means, how is it not real?)
conuly: Quote: "I'm blogging this" (blogging)
"A better way to holiday shop."

This, of course, caused me to go "A better way to what now?" because I'm sure I would say "shop for the holidays" or something like that.

Still, after I noticed that I largely forgot about it. I mean, it *is* a more efficient way to say the same thing, even if it sounds funny to me. I figured it was just an advertising thing, like a headline thing. But now here I am reading the comments here and there it is again, in the comments, from a real person: "Here's a little background: my husband loves to grocery shop and so do I." Is this like jump roping instead of jumping rope? (Oh, man, I need to re-up this account so I can do polls again!)
conuly: Discworld quote: "The new day is a great big fish!" (fish)
but getting into a groove and getting into a rut are two entirely different things?
conuly: image of Elisa Mazda (Gargoyles) - "Watcher of the City" (watcher of the city)
Read more... )

If you read the comments, a lot of people there seem to be posting under the misguided impression that wherever they're from has the flat, universal accent. Minnesota? Connecticut? Boston? California? How about, uh, no? (Especially California. I count at least three people claiming that everybody should speak "neutrally" like they do over in California. LOL! Have they heard themselves speak lately?)

I take a much more sensible approach. Rather than New Yorkers trying to change their accents, everybody else in the country should simply speak like we do. Not because our accent is neutral, far from it, but because it's simply the best, most correct way to talk. It's self-evident! :P

Or, if that's a bit much, maybe we can start judging people on the content of their speech, rather than assuming ignorance before we even listen properly. And then I'll let you guys over in California and Boston and wherever else think you speak normally, and you can let us think the same, and we'll all communicate nicely with each other without getting caught up in silly little details like which vowel goes where and how we indicate a plural you (or if we do at all).

There are also comments from people bemoaning the lack of a NYC accent in NY. I don't think this means the accent is dying, though. Probably just means that it's moving and changing as we get new immigrants (who will alter the accent, of course) and as the older groups pick up and move elsewhere now that they have more money. Elsewhere like, say, Staten Island. It's remarkable how many conversations I've had on Staten Island that run "Where are you from?" "Brooklyn!" "Oh, me too - Bay Ridge/Bensonhurst!" (And it's always those two neighborhoods, too.)
conuly: (Default)
Oh, I didn't say that. The US Embassy did!

Pollution in Beijing was so bad Friday the U.S. Embassy, which has been independently monitoring air quality, ran out of conventional adjectives to describe it, at one point saying it was "crazy bad."

I don't know, there's something about situations like this, where political or bureaucratic organizations speak more... well, more informally, that really makes me laugh. It's not at all the same as being unable to spell, punctuate, or capitalize.


Oct. 2nd, 2010 10:24 pm
conuly: Picture of a young River Tam. Quote: Independent thought, independent lives, independent dreams (independent)

If I win this, I'm handing it in turn to every teacher in the nieces' school.

Asking to find "the short vowel" in dog. Running right up into that pin/pen merger, three years running. Something's gotta give, sooner or later.
conuly: Fuzzy picture of the Verrazano Bridge. Quote in Cursive Hebrew (bridge)
That would be the guy who thinks it's the members of the Iroquois Lacrosse team.

As Wikipedia says: A nation is a group of people who share common history, culture, ethnic origin and language, often possessing or seeking its own government.


A nation is different from a country in that a country is the land that belongs to a nation, and from a state in that a state is the government of the nation and country.


Although "nation" is also commonly used in informal discourse as a synonym for state or country, a nation is not identical to a state. Countries where the social concept of "nation" coincides with the political concept of "state" are called nation states.

I don't know much about the Iroquois Confederacy except that it helped inspire the Founding Fathers (or so I'm told), but... hell, that's what Wikipedia is for! Ah. It says that the Iroquois Confederacy is formed of six nations... which presumably each have a shared history, culture, ethnic origin, and language. And that's what you need for a nation! Government is an optional extra (and incidentally, just to clear that one up, you can have one even if nobody else recognizes it in the world.) When you combine all these nations into a confederacy, that confederacy of nations presumably from that point onward has a shared history and so forth.

So, while I'm still not sure they're making a worthwhile stand here, and I still haven't learned much about the Iroquois, I hope we've all learned a valuable lesson:

Before you tell people they're wrong, stop and make sure you're not the one who's wrong, because if you're wrong you'll just look like a fool.

(I knew there was something about that comment that bugged me, and it wasn't just the condescension! They were just wrong! Oh, I *hate* it when people are wrong.)
conuly: A picture of the bridge at night. Quote: "Spanned with a poem" (poem)
(I know, weird, right?)

So, in the interest in making us all look a little more educated, I'm going to explain the distinction between four homophones, and give alternatives:

Pallet: This word means a straw-filled mattress or a small, hard, temporary bed. If you find yourself having to use this word, and you're not sure how to spell it, try "mat".

Pallet: Same spelling, different etymology, you're most likely to use this to talk about a portable platform for storing or moving packages. If you can sensibly use "crate", go for it. Otherwise, you're stuck learning to spell.

Palette: This means the board you put paints on and by extension it has come to mean the colors on the palette themselves. If you have to use this word in the second sense, and you're not sure how to spell it, try "color scheme". If you mean the first sense, you're stuck learning to spell unless you don't mind saying "that thing artists use to hold paint while they're painting".

Palate: This means the roof of your mouth and, by extension, your (intellectual) sense of taste. If you find yourself having to use this word in the first sense, and you're not sure how to spell it, try "roof of the mouth". If you have to use the word in the second sense, try sounding slightly less pretentious* and just say "taste".

You may say "But Connie! Surely it's better to use the right word than your workarounds!", and in many cases you're probably right. But if you can't spell it, you're not using the right word. And although people probably shouldn't care, they do. Rest assured they're all making fun of you behind your back. Avoid the angst, and just choose another word!

*Yeah, it pretty much is pretentious the way a lot of people use it. It doesn't have to be, but it is. And even if that's not what you're going for, the people around you either are or think you are, and they'll never forget that you can't spell.
conuly: A picture of the bridge at night. Quote: "Spanned with a poem" (poem)
Jenn has one or two on her phone she MUST email to me soon. Jennifer?

These were all taken today. Today was a non-uniform half day. It was ALSO a doctor's appointment... whoops. So the nieces went home with somebody else, and when I picked them up we went with another friend to play for a while in the yard next to Saint Paul's church, which is nice and quiet. One day I need to take pictures of some of the neighborhood around here, the houses with all the stairs are quaint, though impractical, and I'm not sure you all realize exactly how many stairs I'm talking about here! Ana is in the purple dress, and Evangeline has the pink one. I really like that pink dress!

Read more... )

Ana has recently learned to roll her Rs, and has taken to doing that EVERYWHERE, even in words where it's not even rrrrremotely apprrrrrroprrrrrriate. She likes how it sounds, I guess.

More interestingly, I noticed today that when she stresses a word... you know, when she italicizes it, she tends to add random Ys (consonantal) in... cyome on! I think she picked this up from one of us, though that's just a feeling. I can't recall any of us saying words like this at all anyway.
conuly: Dr. Horrible quote: All the birds are singing, you're gonna die : ) (birds)
They want a rational orthography for English. They're not going to get it, but it's a very nice thought.

The comments at Yahoo, of course, are... well, they're comments at Yahoo. There's a few main threads:

1. We shouldn't "dumb down" things because that's just helping illiterates, and they're just being lazy.

2. We shouldn't "dumb down" things because that's just helping illiterates, and they're just stupid anyway.

3. We shouldn't "dumb down" things because we can't do that with math... or can we? Also, nobody uses algebra or geometry in real life.

4. These people are just lazy teachers and bad spellers and should be shot at dawn.

5. If we did this, nobody would be able to distinguish homophones in writing and the sky would fall!

6. If we did this, English wouldn't have all these connections to other languages and the sky would fall!

7. If we did this, you wouldn't be able to tell the etymology of a word by looking at it, and you'd never know what an unfamiliar word meant! (This is, of course, the previous argument, but it has the benefit of being somewhat coherent.)

8. But what about dialects????

Now, I've actually given some thought in the past to how I'd reform English orthography if anybody ever gave me that job. I know I've complained in the past about people saying various words "can't be sounded out" when, in fact, they can so long as you have a grasp of how phonics works (last time I made this point it was with the word "lightning", which makes perfect sense once you remember that "igh" is one unit), but be that as it may, English orthography is still an unholy mess. In all the ridiculous amount of time we spend teaching kids to read and write, they could ACTUALLY be reading and writing! Or learning anything else, which is bound to be more useful than mastering a skill people with more sensible set-ups figure out in less than half the time.

So let's take these points in turn.

1. My, aren't you kind!

2. My, aren't you kind! Seriously, why is it some people think that nothing is virtuous unless it's difficult?

3. Other languages have reformed their spellings without the sky falling in AND without failing math (indeed, if you can spend less time spelling you can spend more time for math....)

Also, we do SO use geometry and algebra every day! What sort of mathless life do YOU lead?

4. Really? This? This is your argument?

5. Stupid argument. Stupid, stupid, STUPID argument. There are some good arguments for keeping our current system (inertia is a pretty powerful one all on its own), but this isn't one of them and never has been. Obviously, if you can tell the difference between "but" and "butt" in speech you don't actually need that extra t to distinguish them in writing. No, really. And every time you make a weak argument, you weaken your entire position. Strong arguments aren't bolstered by adding a few weak ones to the pile, they're really not.

6. Of course we'd still have those connections to other languages! Why, it wouldn't be English if we didn't have a bajillion words from other languages floating about! They'd just be spelled differently! (And if that's seriously their argument, can we at LEAST get rid of that stupid floating "s" in "island"? It's only there because of false etymology to begin with!)

7. This is the argument those people meant to make. To this I say:

a. It's not like we teach etymology in schools. It'd be great if we did - heck, we could use some of that time freed up from not learning spelling to do so! - but we don't.

b. I agree, the moment when you realize that "two" is of course related to "twin" and "twice", or that "one" has to do with "alone" is a pretty nifty and inspiring moment... but I'm not sure it's worth ten words a week in penance.

8. This is a good argument! This is their only good argument, as far as I'm concerned. I have three thoughts about this.

a. Not all spelling reforms have to be massive, sweeping, and radical. We can start by doing something as simple as removing letters which are universally (or very nearly) considered both silent and meaningless.

Now, every time I say this some smartass goes "what about silent e!?!", which just goes to show that being able to spell doesn't improve your reading comprehension one bit. I said meaningless. Since these people invariably mean not the silent e in "come" but the one in "home", that letter has a purpose. That purpose is to "make the vowel say its name". It's an awkward and unwieldy way of distinguishing between long and short vowels, but it works very well indeed. And just getting rid of, say, the b in "thumb" (this IS phonetic - "mb" at the end of the word ALWAYS says "m" - but it's really just as easy to put "m" there instead) or the p in "pneumonia" will save a lot of stress for young students, lazy or otherwise.

This is a spelling change which would have very few problems with dialects. In fact, in my little proto-plan I've divided reforming spelling into different stages, and have tentatively identified "vowels" as the biggest problem. My suggestion would be to ignore all vowels for a start and concentrate only on clearing up the problems with consonants.

b. Not all problems with dialects are big ones. The ones people always mention are of the vowel shift variety, though they don't know that.

Here's the thing. You and I may not agree about exactly how to say the "i" in "time", but we probably do agree that it's the same vowel that's in "tie" or "my" or "bite". We can have a distinct symbol for that, and it won't really *matter* that we say it differently, so long as we're all consistent.

c. The problem they *don't* mention is with things like the "Don-dawn merger" and likewise, where two different people put two different phonemes into the same word. Bad enough with Don and dawn (where one group of people is stuck with two symbols for the same sound, but they can get over it), but it gets downright tragic with or-ange and ah-range! OMG, HOW DO WE PICK WHICH ONE???

I don't know. I mean, I do know, but I don't like the answer more than you do. We do what everybody else does and arbitrarily pick one dialect (or make one up out of whole cloth) to be the standard. And then we teach that.

Truthfully, we already *do* that, when it comes right down to it, but in my ideal world we wouldn't say that the standard is more or less correct than the other dialects, simply that it's convenient for everybody to have one way of writing, and that in order to do that we NEED one way of speaking when we're not talking within our own group. It's no different from learning Latin or Esperanto for the same purpose.

And yes, that would just suck, but I'm not convinced it sucks more than our current mess. And let's face it - it IS a mess. And we just keep on making it messier. Jalapeno? WTF? There is NO GOOD REASON for us to keep that "j" just because that's how they do it in Spanish.

There is one other problem that ought to come up in these discussions, but that I rarely see, and that's the fact that English has far more sounds than letters. I keep seeing the number "44" put up there, but that probably varies depending on dialect, of course.

Now, this isn't a totally insurmountable problem. Using my own speech as my personal guide, and allowing as many digraphs as I can reasonably squeeze in, I can get the number of necessary letters down to 32, with the possible inclusion of a hyphen or diaresis to distinguish between diphthongs and non-diphthong strings of vowels. But it's a very tight squeeze, and for it to work some letters have to lose their existing meanings altogether and take on bizarre new ones, which... let's face it, is REALLY never going to happen. A spelling reform may have an impossibly slim chance of occurring, but nobody is going to really let me get away with saying "Well, q is unnecessary when kw can do the job, so let's make it take on both sounds of th instead".

So all told, we have a whole bunch of bad and silly reasons against spelling reform, and three good ones - the dialect problem (we can work around it, but it'd be a real pain in the butt for everybody concerned), the limited letters problem (ditto), and the inertia problem (I can understand that nobody wants to reprint the OED just because of a few upstarts).
conuly: Fuzzy picture of the Verrazano Bridge. Quote in Cursive Hebrew (bridge)
Theoretically, if we do stuff like this enough we'll improve Evangeline's phonemic awareness.

Eva said phone.
I said fish.
Ana said foam.

Eva said (after thought and some prompting) firetruck.
I said frog.
Ana said fire.

Evangeline needed some help, so I suggested "something you shouldn't do... fff... f..." and I pretended like I was about to punch her, angling for "fight" of course.

Evangeline: Fuck?

This is where I died.

Evangeline: No, no - punch!

Ana: No, fuck starts with an f. I think she meant fight. Yeah, fight!

Me: *still dead*

Once I recovered, I reminded Evangeline that she's not supposed to say fuck, and so that therefore I would never try to direct her to that word. Ana asked why, so I explained that we don't say "fuck" because it's an impolite way of talking about having sex.

Ana: Wait - it is? I thought it was just something you said when you were angry! Like, today when you sent me for the paper towels, I said "I don't CARE about the fucking paper towels!"

Ana was also reminded she's not supposed to use that word, of course. *headdesk*

And yes, I explained that since sex deals with private parts, words used to describe it are often considered impolite because it shouldn't come up in public anyway. But it's also, Ana, a word you say when you're angry... mostly because you're not supposed to be saying it anyway. This explanation, surprisingly, seems to have made perfect sense to her.
conuly: A picture of the Castleton Castle. Quote: "Where are our dreams? Where are our castles?" (castle)
Escalate is a backformation of escalator.

This is just a segue for an interesting question that kept me up all night: What is the verb form of backformation? Is it backform or backformate?
conuly: image of Elisa Mazda (Gargoyles) - "Watcher of the City" (watcher of the city)
And every time I fully fund a project I get a gift card in the mail, so basically at this point I'm donating to projects with gift cards from projects I donated to with a gift card I got from donating to a project (with a gift card). Sheesh.

I got three of those gift cards in the mail today. One of them is from an 8th grade class. And they say they're not teaching cursive anymore! I've got this note written in teeny tiny cursive such that I have to squint and guess at various squiggles from context. Which is probably the only way this student got away with calling his/her (the names were censored) teacher "possibly senile".

Actually, that's one thing I've noticed from getting various groups of thank you cards in the mail is that handwriting is clearly regional. In one batch I'll get letters where the kids all write their lowercase a's like it appears in times new roman, with that arch over. In this batch apparently the fashion is for kids to write such that no letter takes up more than half the line... and that lower case letters take up even less space. Neat or messy, cursive or print, none of them takes up as much space as was standard with the kids when and where *I* was in the 8th grade (where everybody seemed to have the same large, very ROUND handwriting.

Of course, I don't know if this is the style of a particular school or teacher they picked up, or if it's spread from one kid to another, or what.

*looks through next set*

Like this set! I should scan it in, because every time I see the word "books" in any of this next set of letters the k is written disconnected, in two parts.

I knew in general that there were different handwriting styles taught in different schools, of course, and that one might be more prevalent in one area than another, and of course I know different people have different handwriting (and I wouldn't confuse one of these for another's, of course), but I don't think I ever realized before how handwriting can have an accent... even, I think, if an effort is made to teach it to one standard.
conuly: image of a rubber ducky - "Somewhere, somehow, a duck is watching you" (ducky predicate)
She HATES doing her journal, but we're putting more emphasis on it because she's behind in writing (and advice = appreciated). She decided to write about the storm and the trees that fell. Well, she's supposed to put in "describing words" so I asked her what sort of trees. So she carefully wrote "Old and big trees". And then she read it over, stopped, and erased to make "big and old trees". Now, she's right to do that - in English, big always comes before old, and never the other way around. (And both of them come before color words.) But she kept the and. I asked her about it and she went "No, I HAVE to have an AND, Connie!" Silly me. (Yesterday she also told me, while doing a worksheet on counting by twos, that "There is no 30 in counting by twos, my teacher told me!" I asked if, instead, her teacher had said that when you count by twos nothing ends in a 3 - the grunt she gave me suggests that I'm probably right, but she didn't want to admit it because then she'd have to fess up to having been wrong.

In other thoughts, over in Ginmar's journal they're talking about this jerk who... well, read it yourself. Ginmar described him as paying "hundreds of dollars" for car parts. This was corrected in a comment - he spent something like 130,000 in parts. Hundreds of thousands of dollars. Which is, technically, still hundreds of dollars.

It's also still dozens of dollars, but you can't say that. Why is it some things - cookies, eggs, children - can be counted by dozens, but dollars can't? Dollars can be counted - we can have hundreds of dollars, thousands of dollars, millions of dollars, but not by dozens or tens. (You can't count eggs by tens either unless you're weird, but you can count them by the hundreds, I guess.) Why is that?
conuly: image of Elisa Mazda (Gargoyles) - "Watcher of the City" (watcher of the city)
First, this one isn't really related to the others, but I'll link to it now anyway. Apparently the president gave a speech where he mispronounced one word out of many, he said "aks" or possibly "aksk" instead of "ask". Normally I'd give the "aks is a historically valid pronunciation of ask" lecture, but no worries, Rush Limbaugh gave it for me, saying:

“Obama can turn on that black dialect when he wants to and turn it off.”

This is because Limbaugh is one classy dude.

Now, the link above (and Language Log's second post on the subject here) take the view that this is the sort of speech error that people make all the time and that nothing more should be said on it.

I didn't see the original speech, so I'll just go with their interpretation but also add: Even if he was saying "aks" as his normal mode of speech (in the same way that Bush said "nucular" all the time), who cares? There's nothing wrong with it and we all understand it. And if he sometimes speaks in one dialect and sometimes in another, this is a bad thing? Since when? Having more than one way to speak can only help you in this world, how could it harm you in any way?

Of course, I'm missing the point, which was no doubt just a chance to go "Look, he's STILL BLACK, and I don't like that but if I say that outright people will think I'm an ass, because I am, so I'll pretend there's some reason for not liking him."


Now, we've got two... well, interesting links.

So first we have Representative Trent Franks, who seems to think... well, let me let him speak

And yet today, half of all black children are aborted. Half of all black children are aborted. Far more of the African-American community is being devastated by the policies of today than were being devastated by policies of slavery.

Yes, he actually went there. And he's not just an isolated loon, no, let's look at this article from the Times:

Read more... )

It's easy to try to brush off the promoted conspiracy theory as just that - a conspiracy theory. And you're probably right except that there were unethical and discriminatory practices not that long ago which did harm to black people (and poor people in general) and forced sterilizations did happen. This is no secret. So while I don't think there's any big conspiracy now, I can see why people can believe there might be.

Except, as always, the anti-abortion groups are taking this from the wrong angle. Look, I'm as happy as anybody to see a sweet little baby whose parents are glad to have him. But people don't have abortions just for fun, or just because they've been misled into thinking they can't take care of a child (when really they can). They have abortions because, hey, they can't take care of a kid. If they think they can't, they're probably right.

If there's a conspiracy here, it's not with the abortion providers. It's with the people who, time after time, enact laws which help the rich at the cost of the poor. It's with the people who set up and support the conditions which make it so that any one person will feel she cannot have a baby now, and needs an abortion (and chances are she's correct) and then go around insulting women for making this choice. People know this! They know this, but they fall for their lines anyway.

I don't see abortion as a moral issue at all. But if I did, and wanted to stop it, I'd go to the source. These same people who don't want you to have an abortion, you know they don't like you anyway. They're not going to help you when you need help, they won't help you keep your family together.

Incidentally, a special note about that OTHER guy, the one who made that comment about disabled babies being a punishment for abortion....


Actually, I have nothing to say to him. But I'm tempted now to start a poll asking which comment was really more offensive.
conuly: Quote from Veronica Mars - "Sometimes I'm even persnickety-ER" (persnickety)

That's what people are doing when they say things like "Marriage is DEFINED as between a man and a woman so THEREFORE we can't change the law to allow same-sex marriage".

People do something similar when they pass off old lines like "The Chinese word for "crisis" is made of "opportunity" and "danger" so we can do something in a crisis!" like new wisdom.

I have two thoughts about this. First, if people are just doing it to make a rhetorical point ("there's an opportunity in every crisis!") rather than because they actually think their reasoning is valid, I don't see how it makes a difference. Sure, it'd be a lot simpler to just say what they're thinking outright without resorting to dubious etymology to do so, but whatever.

Second, about that crisis/danger/opportunity one: Why don't these people do it regarding the English word "emergency" and "emergence"? What's so appealing about Chinese, a language most of them don't even speak and wouldn't know if they were wrong?

Well, I think I answered my question there, sorry about that!
conuly: (Default)
Speaking or signing, it's the same to your brain

It seems obvious to me, but it's still an interesting article.
conuly: (cucumber)
"Trolls don't have a word for machismo in much the same way that puddles don't have a word for water."

Do you think that's a variant of the "Eskimos have 20 zillion words for snow" line? (BTW - they don't by any sensible view of the word (no more than we do, certainly), and it wouldn't matter if they did.)
conuly: Picture taken on the SI Ferry - "the soul of a journey is liberty" (boat)
As we were walking home from school:

Evangeline: Billy in my class thought I was going to be picked up by my dad, and I said no, I know you're not my dad because my dad... it's a boy, not a girl!
Me: HE's a boy, honey.
Evangeline: Who's a boy?
Me: Your fa- I mean, you should say he's a boy, not it's a boy, we don't usually say "it" when talking about people.
Evangeline: No, if I said he's a boy they'd know he's a he. So I have to say it's a boy.

Can't argue with that logic, I suppose!
conuly: Quote from Veronica Mars - "Sometimes I'm even persnickety-ER" (persnickety)
You simmer carrots with ginger then blend them in a blender with peanut butter, soy sauce and sesame oil.

Obviously, using a blender is different than just "blending" them. The latter is unlikely to get you a paste.
conuly: (Default)
We were walking, and I bumped her. As I bumped her, I said "Excuse me", to which she replied "You're welcome". Well, she said more like "Do welcome", which she doesn't do anymore :( I tried asking her today so I could get the pronunciation just right, but now she says it right, like a big girl. (That was the only place she didn't say "your" the way she was supposed to.)

Me: I'm welcome? Huh? I said Excuse Me!
Evangeline: *giggles* I'm sorry.
Me: It's all right. I'm sorry, I bumped into you!
Evangeline: I said you're welcome. I say that when you say... when you say...
Me: Thank you?
Evangeline: Thank you. I say you're welcome when you say thank you. Thank you! You're welcome!
Evangeline: Thank you, you're welcome, thank you, you're welcome.
Me: Yep.
Evangeline: You said sorry. Say sorry, Connie.
Me: Sorry?
Evangeline: It's okay. Sorry, it's okay, sorry, it's okay, sorry, it's okay.

I'm glad she has a grasp of the basic manners she's been learning for the past 4 years.

Today, she was speaking and I noticed that she said "nothing" like "nussing". Intrigued, I started bombarding her with say-this, coming up with all the words with th- in them I could (and making a few up). I alternated between voiced and unvoiced, but the pattern I eventually heard (before she got bored) was consistent... so if the unvoiced becomes -s, the voiced becomes -z and so on.

Th at the start of a word (this, then) becomes a stop (dis, den). Th between vowels becomes an alveolar fricative (nothing becomes nussing, mouthing with a voiced th becomes mouzing) unless it's before -er (or probably -ar, I have try that out!) (and she still turns -er into -or most of the time, which yes, does problems with the word "her"!) in which case it becomes a stop (mother becomes mudder). Th at the end of the word is a bilabial fricative (teeth becomes teef, bathe becomes bave). There's a few exceptions (anything becomes anyting... though it's possible she's thinking of it as any + thing, two words, which makes sense because thing is usually ting, that's why nussing caught my ear), but it seems pretty consistent, although I really have to start listening better instead of waiting for a quiet moment and pouncing.

As near as I can tell, she's essentially covered all her bases with regard to this weird th thing, except for the correct one! She knows how to make a th, I explicitly taught her one day when I was bored, she just doesn't unless I sit her down and exaggeratedly do it first and ask her to copy me. And I don't expect her to do it when talking either, it's one of the lastest sounds kids learn, isn't it?

Ana now has all her cursive lowercase letters down. I really didn't want to tackle z, it being a difficult and uncommon letter that looks nothing like its print form (apparently, it comes from the medieval form of the letter), but I built it up to her by saying that it's worth learning because it's fun to do, so she took to it relatively well. Today we wrote the week's sight words in cursive, and I wrote out a sentence for her to read. I think we'll just try for a word a day for next week, and then I'll teach her capitals.
conuly: Picture taken on the SI Ferry - "the soul of a journey is liberty" (boat)
My sister lost her job a few weeks ago, which means *I* effectively lost my job a few weeks ago. Also? Everybody's going away for Thanksgiving and I'm bombing the house, so my holiday is largely going to suck. *sniffle*

Oh, well, that's what bookstores are for, right? Beats me why B&N would be open on Thanksgiving, but I'm pretty sure they are, so I might as well make the most of that.

Monday is our library day, and yesterday I managed to get Jenn to come along... and she didn't get to meet either of the usual librarians as they were out again. The substitute librarian wasn't very effective at getting the loud kids to shut up and stop being so loud during storytime (the normal ones aren't superheroes at this either, but they're better than he was). The kids weren't badly behaved, per se, they were just loud. Even when they shushed each other, they were loud!

Fascinatingly, though, I got to hear them use the word "flamed" in spoken conversation to mean a. insulting people in real life to their actual faces and b. having fun going back and forth insulting each other in real life. They were preteens. I was dying to go up and ask if they normally used this word in real life like this and if they'd first heard it spoken or if they'd first seen it on the internet or something, but mostly I just wanted them to shut up, so I didn't.

On our way home from the library, we stop at Subway and pick up two cookies and two boxes of juice, for the girls. (We don't stop at the ETG because the ETG is closed Mondays.) I usually get them oatmeal raisin, but sometimes they get chocolate chip and I just *tell* them it's oatmeal raisin. I ran off after leaving the library to go to a protest that turned out to be Tuesday, and somehow Ana managed to convince her mother that I *always* get them double chocolate chip instead! Oh well, Ana lost another tooth (it had been twisted sideways in her mouth, ugh!), so that deserved a celebration.
conuly: (Default)
Now, I *know* you all read [ profile] ozarque, because she's awesome, but just in case you didn't get the memo: Go read her journal! Because she's awesome!

Right now she's also being awesome while writing a series on American English Grammar, so go read it. (Should I post this in [ profile] linguaphiles, do you think?)
conuly: Picture taken on the SI Ferry - "the soul of a journey is liberty" (boat)
Swing becomes fing. Sweep becomes feep. Switzerland becomes Fitzeryan.

Yesterday, she asked me if I could "s'ing" her. After I confirmed that she meant swing I asked, in dismay, if she could say sweep, could say swallow, could say Switzerland. "S'eep, s'a-yo, S'itzeryan."

I suppose this is a step forward, but I didn't want her to step forward! I wanted her to keep being the cute little kid who cutely asked me to fing her!

I've lately heard her saying "lollipop" instead of "yayipop" and "byoo" or "blue" instead of "b'ue", and - tragedy of tragedies! - "beyieve" instead of "abeev".

She clearly hasn't read and understood the memo: SHE IS NOT ALLOWED TO GET ANY OLDER. I tell her that, every day, but she laughs! She seems to think - and has even said as much! - that just because she "can't help it" that's an excuse for growing up! Not on my watch.
conuly: Quote from Veronica Mars - "Sometimes I'm even persnickety-ER" (persnickety)
This woman was very upset that 24 words are being removed from the Collin's English Dictionary due to lack of use, so she's selling them on ribbons. (Her explanation sounds better.)

Frankly, if any dictionary is removing these 24 words, I can see why. Not only can I not remember the last time I used them, I'm fairly confident that there was never even a first time I used them! I or anybody else living and breathing except maybe the lexicographers.

But some of them are nice. I particularly like skirr, olid, oppugnant, nitid, and niddering. But when would I use them? I could describe something as "nitid", but then I'd have to explain that I mean "bright or glossy", and if I mean "bright or glossy" why not just say that it's bright or glossy to begin with? The advantage to bright and glossy is that everybody knows what they mean and the goal of communication is realized. Same thing with niddering - it sounds better than cowardly and despicable, but if I want to describe somebody or something in those words I'd rather just do it outright with all the vitriol I can bring. It loses a bit of its punch when you have to explain what you meant to the person you just insulted.

Now, olid, we can do something with. A language can never have enough words to describe stinky farts, after all. And skirr has the advantage of being vaguely onomatopoeic, so any situation where it's likely to occur may be self-explanatory. And oppugnant *also* sounds like what it means through the advantage of being made up of more commonly found morphemes. But when it comes right down to it, I suspect I'm more likely to choose a more readily understood word in the end.
conuly: (Default)
So, now we're doing Ana's summer homework. I'm giving her 4 - 6 math problems a day (that's just me, because I noticed to my horror she'd become super recalcitrant over the subject. If she's not being a pain it's over in 2 minutes flat) and she has to write her 5 sentences about her daily book (that's her teachers).

I've found that I can easily get her to do her work by... um... bribing her. STOP READING OVER MY SHOULDER, ANA. IT IS RUDE. GAH! AND I WILL TICKLE YOU! I tell her a bad joke every time she finishes a math problem or a sentence.

I've found that a lot of jokes go right over kids' heads. When is a door not a door? When it's ajar. Have you ever used the word "ajar" except in that joke? Or they're precipitated on knowing the original joke first. Why did the chicken cross the playground? To get to the other slide - a joke that falls flat if you don't know why the chicken crossed the road. (For that matter, THAT joke doesn't make any sense until you thoroughly understand how it subverts the normal joke format, which kids often don't.)

When I was a child, I thought that what's black and white and red all over was a zebra falling down the stairs, or maybe a penguin eating watermelon. My mother was told it was a nun fingerpainting. These "jokes" didn't make any sense until I learned that what's black and white and red all over is supposed to, originally, be a newspaper. But like many kids I heard the parody first and was completely baffled.


conuly: (Default)

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