Posts Tagged ‘words’

Translation Integration

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009

Google Translate has been on a roll this year, integrating with a ton of different properties. I’m not sure why this recent one struck me the most, but I think it’s awesome:
Now on Picasa photos, like this one, it translates comments in other languages into your native language. There’s something about people all over the world looking at the same picture, reacting to it, and talking about it in their native languages that amazes me.


Sunday, September 27th, 2009

NYT “On Language” writer William Saffire has died, instantly reminding me of the Onion article William Safire Orders Two Whoppers Junior.

This is why I use phrases like “two ipods touch”.


Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

This banner at a conference for advocates of English-only education has a slight problem…

(conference is spelled wrong)

Which of course reminds me of this:

Pat Buchanan is in the first picture, btw.

How not to write (part 3)

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

In recognition of the release of Angels and Demons, I’m re-posting Language Log’s 2004 diatribe against Dan Brown’s writing style, in which they called Brown “one of the worst prose stylists in the history of literature” who “writes like the kind of freshman student who makes you want to give up the whole idea of teaching”. Read the article- it’s awesome.

A short excerpt…
Brown writes:

A voice spoke, chillingly close. “Do not move.”

On his hands and knees, the curator froze, turning his head slowly.

Only fifteen feet away, outside the sealed gate, the mountainous silhouette of his attacker stared through the iron bars. He was broad and tall, with ghost-pale skin and thinning white hair. His irises were pink with dark red pupils.

To which Language Log replies:

Just count the infelicities here. A voice doesn’t speak —a person speaks; a voice is what a person speaks with. “Chillingly close” would be right in your ear, whereas this voice is fifteen feet away behind the thundering gate. The curator (do we really need to be told his profession a third time?) cannot slowly turn his head if he has frozen; freezing (as a voluntary human action) means temporarily ceasing all muscular movements. And crucially, a silhouette does not stare! A silhouette is a shadow. If Saunière can see the man’s pale skin, thinning hair, iris color, and red pupils (all at fifteen feet), the man cannot possibly be in silhouette.


How not to write (part 2)

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

Tom Friedman writes:

Warren Buffett once famously quipped that “only when the tide goes out do you find out who is not wearing a bathing suit.” So true. But what’s really unnerving is that America appears to be one of those countries that has been swimming buck naked — in more ways than one.

Credit bubbles are like the tide. They can cover up a lot of rot.

Which was critiqued by Matt Taibbi in typical style:

I’m not sure how possible it is to swim “buck naked — in more ways than one.” It may be (and I’d be inclined to believe it, if evidence were to surface) that Friedman is actually a member of an alien civilization that recognizes not two genders but nine and has fifteen different ways to be naked. But I don’t think “buck naked — in more ways than one” is something we understand here on earth.

Then there’s the line, “Credit bubbles are like the tide. They cover up a lot of rot.” Friedman is trying to say that credit bubbles cover up economic problems, much the way Buffet’s high tide covered up some investors’ lack of foresight. And that would have been fine, if he’d just said it like that. The problem is that Friedman fucks up the whole “tide” image by adding the two image-wrecking words bubble and rot. Only Thomas Friedman wouldn’t notice the natural relationship between the words “bubble” and “tide,” and wouldn’t realize that readers would see those two water words lumped close together and frantically search for some kind of figure of speech there. But there isn’t one: Friedman only means “credit bubble” in the sense of a “credit bubble,” so while you’re trying to figure out what the tide has to do with the bubbles, Friedman is on the other side of the room covering up rot, which most people cover with paint, using ocean water. It’s far from his best work, but bubbles are like tide covering rot is a solid base hit in the Friedmanisms game.

How not to write (part 1)

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

A techcrunch post begins with:

First, it was reported that Apple was talking to Verizon about getting the iPhone on its network in 2010. Then it was reported that Apple was actually working on new mobile devices for Verizon. With so much Apple blood in the Verizon water, it was only a matter of time before the Microsoft shark surfaced.

How is Apple bleeding in this analogy? Apple is considering jumping in to Verizon’s “water”, but the blood analogy doesn’t work. Nice try.

I make plenty of writing mistakes myself, but I at least try to make analogies coherent.

A Hanging

Monday, January 12th, 2009

I was listening to a podcast about George Orwell’s short stories and essays recently (NPR, I think). One that struck me was “A Hanging” in which Orwell describes an experience from his time in Burma. It’s a short, worthwhile read.

Orwell is escorting a prisoner to his execution, and notices during the walk that the prisoner steps aside slightly to avoid stepping in a puddle on the way to the gallows. He then writes:

“It is curious, but till that moment I had never realized what it means to destroy a healthy, conscious man. When I saw the prisoner step aside to avoid the puddle, I saw the mystery, the unspeakable wrongness, of cutting a life short when it is in full tide. This man was not dying, he was alive just as we were alive. All the organs of his body were working — bowels digesting food, skin renewing itself, nails growing, tissues forming — all toiling away in solemn foolery. His nails would still be growing when he stood on the drop, when he was falling through the air with a tenth of a second to live. His eyes saw the yellow gravel and the grey walls, and his brain still remembered, foresaw, reasoned — reasoned even about puddles. He and we were a party of men walking together, seeing, hearing, feeling, understanding the same world; and in two minutes, with a sudden snap, one of us would be gone — one mind less, one world less.”

Another friend blogging

Sunday, January 4th, 2009

I meant to post this a while ago, but my friend Jeff from high school started a blog: American Catharsis. It’s an outlet for his creative writing and poetry, and it’s quite good (though I’m a bit behind, as I’ve starred several items for reading later).

The one problem I have with poetry and creative writing blogs is that they end up getting mixed in with all the blogs that I skim, so I have to either switch reading styles or star them for later reading. I know it doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it makes me wonder if I should compartmentalize them in some better way.


Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

A six-part video in which Derren Brown and Richard Dawkins discuss psychics. The techniques used in cold reading are especially interesting:

(via Boing Boing)

Crepuscular Rays

Sunday, November 30th, 2008

I didn’t know the term “Crepuscular rays” before. Here’s a picture of some from Golden Gate Park:

(by Mila Zinkova for wikipedia)