The games that shape our language

by @edent | , | 1 comment | Read ~195 times.

A get out of jail free card from the Monopoly boardgame.

One of the joys of working with a diverse set of people from all around the world, is that English idioms are a constant source of bemusements. "It's raining cats and dogs" is quickly mapped to the more poetic "Es gießt Schusterjungs". Recently, I mentioned how our team had a "get-out-of-jail-free card". Whereupon a person…

Data Is / Data Are

by @edent | , | 11 comments | Read ~135 times.

Binary code displayed on a screen.

To be clear - I don't care about this; I just think it is interesting. Is the word "data" a plural? On a strict reading, yes. Datum is singular, data is its plural. But humans are spongey meatbags who evolve language. And there will always be a tension between traditionalists and modernists. So, I took…

Titles and Pronouns

by @edent | , | 9 comments | Read ~350 times.

Some giant question marks standing in a field.

I am not a linguist, nor an expert on gender. I'm just trying to muddle my way through this confusing world the same as anyone else. The English language is adaptable. We'll happily bodge words together to make new ones, verb our nouns, and grammar-flex to the point of breaking. It's a fun language! English…

Micro-Aggressions vs Micro-Incivilities

by @edent | , | 2 comments | Read ~303 times.

Perhaps you've heard of Micro-Aggressions. They're the steady drip-drip-drip of poison which gradually wears you down. "Where are you really from?" or "I can't pronounce your name, can I call you Jo?" or "Your lot are good at running, right?" or "You're clever, for a ...". Individually, they are tiny pinpricks of discrimination. None of…

Postel's Law also applies to human communication

by @edent | , , , | 3 comments

Early Internet pioneer, Jon Postel, beautifully captured the "Robustness Principle" for networked communications. "Be strict in what you send, and generous in what you receive." That is, any computer sending data to another, should stick closely to the specification for that communication channel. Any computer receiving data, should expect that the sender isn't following the…

Netizens or Webizens?

by @edent | , , | 2 comments | Read ~127 times.

Screenshot from a Guardian article about Chinese Webizens.

Way back in the 1990s, the word "Netizen" was coined. I always took it to mean "someone who lives on the Internet". In modern times, the neologism has been superseded with "webizen". I find this an interesting development. It is well known that people often confused the Net with the Web. Hence the need for…

Christian Names (part 2)

by @edent | , | Read ~159 times.

Four points of identification must be written on the bottle i.e.: Christian name, Surname, DOB, and Hosp No.

This is a follow-up post to 2015's "What's Your Christian Name?". tl;dr "Christian Name" used to be synonymous with "First Name" or "Given Name". The majority of people in the UK are not Christian and, therefore, don't have Christian Names. Yet there are lots of local Government forms which still insist on this archaic phrasing.…

The law leaves skeuomorphs in language

by @edent | ,

The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don't just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary. Terry Pratchett The law leaves indelible traces in our…

Diverse or Representative?

by @edent | , | 6 comments | Read ~201 times.

Some casual thoughts about language. I recently received an invitation to a tech talk where all the speakers were blokes. As is normal for these sorts of things, I dropped the organisers an email saying I wouldn't be attending because of the lack of diversity. I received a very polite email back protesting that the…

The Revisionist History of Mad Magazine

by @edent | , | 1 comment | Read ~468 times.

(Or, watching culture evolve in real-time.) I love Mad Magazine. My mother introduced it to me as a child. Although half the jokes flew over my head, I was hooked. I've spent years scouring bookshops for ancient Mad paperbacks, and picking through the discard pile at comic-book stores. One thing which always struck me was…