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Eight years of blogging

29 Aug

I just realized that I’ve been blogging for eight years now. Suck it, Mager. 🙂

Now listening: “If I’m Gonna Sink, I Might as Well Go to the Bottom,” Johnny Paycheck.

Merging My Blogs

2 Mar

I just imported my old Seamripper blog and the blog I wrote when I ran my triathlon back in 2004 into this blog. It’s so satisfying to have all those disparate posts in one place. OK, maybe it’s only satisfying to me.

It’s so weird to see all my different efforts. My favorite was Democrafts, where I chronicled the crafty endeavors of various liberal folk during the last presidential election. Maybe I should bring that one back…

Late addition: Check out my archives. Now these posts go back to 2000. Wild.

Now listening: “Hate It Here” by Wilco on Saturday Night Live.

Old News: Merriam-Webster’s Word of 2007

21 Dec


Originally uploaded by scjody.

Really? w00t is Merriam-Webster’s word of 2007? Is it even a word if it has numbers instead of vowels? How old do I sound right now?

But before I get my red pencils in a twist, I have to consider the source. See, there are two basic philosophies when it comes to creating dictionaries, usage guidelines, etc. You can either be descriptive (you’re basically recording how people are currently using the language) or prescriptive (you’re basically making a determination about what’s right). Something like or, my friend Andrew‘s favorite, wordie is descriptive. L’AcadĂ©mie française, the organization that cuts out undesirable words from the French language and crusades against the anglicization of français, well, they’re prescriptive. They’re also nonbinding, which sort of points to the inherent problem in being a prescriptive linguist — people probably won’t listen to you.

Back to my point, Merriam-Webster is more descriptive, the American Heritage Dictionary is more prescriptive. So by choosing “w00t,” Merriam-Webster is embracing and calling attention to their whole approach to cataloging the English language.

W00t is an example of l33t (pronounced “leet,” short for “elite”) speak, which, frankly, I think is kind of dumb. There are so many words that already exist in the English language that are interesting and descriptive and beautiful — why not learn how to use those words rather than making up your own?

But Andrew, my connection to all things under-30 and a person who often offers sensible counterpoints to my old-lady reactions, had a good point about l33t-speak: it’s great for passwords.

Now playing: “Stop Breaking Down” the Rolling Stones, “I Let You Go” George Jones and Melba Montgomery, “Bugle Call Rag” Stuff Smith

Follow-up on Consistency

5 Dec

I just noticed that this WordPress template capitalizes all words in a title in the post, but in the list of recent posts, it lowercases all words in a title. I admire that although it is inconsistent, it’s consistently inconsistent.

The Cupertino Effect: Spell-Check and Consistency

5 Dec

Spell-checkers are either the bane of an editor’s existence or a lifesaver, depending, largely, on the spelling ability of the writer submitting a story. When I worked on one writer’s lessons at a guitar magazine, I would open the file, replace “excercise” with “exercise,” and then begin editing. Thank god for ctrl+H.

Benjamin Zimmer, in the Language Log, posted semi-recently about the “Cupertino Effect,” and linked to his more in-depth post (“When Spellcheckers Attack”) on the Oxford University Press USA blog. In a knee-jerk response, I took offense to the name of the phenomenon (Why not “The Redmond Effect”?), but he explains that it refers to older spell-checkers offering “Cupertino” as the suggested correct spelling of “cooperation.” The hyphenated “co-operation” was considered the true spelling.

What I find more alarming is that, when I tested this in my version of MS Word, it found both “co-operation” and “cooperation” to be spelled correctly. Now, technically, they are both correct. It’s a style issue. Whether to hyphenate or not depends on the context, the style rules chosen by the publication — sort of the editorial version of relative morality.

In a perfect world (for editors), you’d be able to choose AP vs. Chicago style or Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate 11th vs. American Heritage 4th in your spell-check, and it would apply those rules. But that’s a level of sophistication that most people don’t need.

To put it bluntly, spell-check exists to make us not look stupid. It is designed to catch the mistakes that the average human misses, to think about details that most people don’t care about or even realize exist. After all, who, besides editors, cares about a serial comma or which, if any, prepositions should be capitalized in a title? To communicate functionally, we don’t all need an editor’s precision. (Which is good, because I like my job and don’t want you all getting into my kitchen, so to speak.)

Allowing two conflicting styles to coexist (co-exist?) in the same document defeats the purpose of a spell-check. Consistency is a key element in making writing appear smarter because it helps the reader’s brain focus on the words and meaning, not the spellings or treatment. To enforce consistency, spell-checkers should find one spelling correct and an alternate spelling incorrect (and then suggest the correct spelling, not a town in Silicon Valley).

Style points: how to spell “spell-checker”:

  • Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate 11th: spell-checker
  • American Heritage, 4th: spell checker, with spellchecker as an alternate spelling

(Thanks, vinayd, for pointing me to the Language Log. Stamp image by itchys.)

I had the top news story on yesterday

29 Jun

Shawn Doyle-Lawson-sing-alonging his heart out.I so wish I had taken a screen shot of it. It’s my piece on Amnesia’s Bluegrass Mondays and the Doyle Lawson Singalong. Not only is it one of my favorite pieces that I’ve written, but it’s also one that was the least edited. (And no, the light edit isn’t the only reason it’s a favorite of mine.)

See the rest of my photos here.

First blog post ever

13 Aug

Hello. This is my first blog. I’m just testing it out. I’m sleepy.