rob waller

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Very good language blog

We've had snow in the UK this week (it's become relatively unusual), and the linguist Geoffrey Pullum was on the radio this morning explaining why it is not true that eskimos have 25 words for snow. He has been fighting this urban myth for many years now, and his essay 'The great Eskimo vocabulary hoax' is a good read, as is all his stuff.

Googling him to find the link to it, I discovered the brilliant blog Language Log. He has a range of co-contributors including Geoff Nunberg, another entertaining and insightful writer on language. Meeting GN at a conference a few years back I confused him with GP, and told how much I'd enjoyed his eskimo stuff. He wasn't amused and I was given to understand I had committed lèse-majesté - evidently it happens all the time. But looking at some of his writings today I realise that Nunberg is indeed the alpha Geoff. Here's a sample which includes a nice new distinction I plan to quote a lot, between 'typos' and 'thinkos'.

Confessions of a distracted geek


I am very proud of myself - I just found the Arial vs Helvetica quiz and scored 9 out of 10. Or should I be ashamed because I got one wrong? There's no feedback so I don't which one.

The Helvetica film is a wonderful celebration of typography. I enjoyed it hugely until I realised that it was never going to end, and that they were never going to stop the examples and the interviews. So I left early and never found out who dunnit. That's me and typographic geekery all over - I used to be a true typographic geek but got distracted.

The power of words

The power of words was in the news this week, with Carol Thatcher's suspension from the BBC for using offensive racial language... well, the word Golliwog. Comments left on news websites were split between those who get it that the word is offensive, and those who don't. Words are offensive if they cause offense, and I'm most convinced (and moved) by the comments from people who were taunted with the name as children - such as the Independent's Ava Vidal.

Browsing in a second-hand bookshop this weekend I chanced upon what appears to be a revisionist version of a well known 1940s children's book by Robert Tredinnick.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Monday, February 02, 2009

I curse thee, Trainline


I like The Trainline, a booking site for rail tickets. But every time I use them I get fooled by the 'Continue' button on the last screen. It takes you to a 'partner website' - ie, an advertiser who wants to sign you up to something.

I don't use The Trainline often enough to remember that this is a con... and it gets me every time.

I hope they're making a little money out of it as compensation for the loss of customer trust. This kind of functional impersonation is pretty close to phishing.

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