2003-03-21 15:23 (UTC)
A translator's eye view of
Asterix the Gaul:
[T]he women's names in the English versions, Gaulish and Roman alike,
end in the usual feminine -a (the chieftain's wife becomes
Impedimenta). This allows the wife of the Gaulish fishmonger, who in
French is Iélosubmarine (yellow submarine, from the Beatles song), to
her husband's Ordralfabétix, alphabetical order, to become Bacteria to
his Unhygienix in English - a well-matched couple, since the fish they
sell are always very elderly, and are frequently used as ammunition in
scuffles between the villagers. And so on.
Ordralfabétix is very clever, but Iélosubmarine is pure genius, is it
not? I just love non-native punnage...
[via Language Hat]
the horrors of digital storage
for linguistic data:
"We are sitting between the onset of the digital era and the mass
extinction of the world's languages," [...]
"The problem is we are unable to ensure the digital storage lasts for
more than five to 10 years because of problems with new media formats,
new binary data formats used by software applications and the
possibility that magnetic storage just simply degrades over time,"
said Professor Bird.
Can InterWebNet and its plucky sidekick XML save the day? We'll have
to wait and see.
2003-03-21 10:37 (UTC)
If I had realised that demonstrations were going to be happening at
6pm before I left for Swedish class at about ten to, I would
have been at my first ever actual demonstration. (I'm not much of a
one for crowds, see.)
Instead I stuck with Plan A, and we did "s" passives, which are after
all really neat and probably about as likely to change Our Tony's
"mind", I suppose. (Yes, I know it's not the same.)
They are cool though - you just do stuff with an 's' on the
end of a word and it magically goes all passive on you. E.g., Jag oppnade
det., "I opened it" -> Det oppnades, "It was opened."
Next time, though, I'll be out there putting the Jag stoppade
kriget in the Kriget stoppades.
2003-03-20 17:09 (UTC)
So I'm learning Italian, of course, and I looked for phonological
information on the web, of course, and I found
which isn't bad. Quote: "a is always pronounced as [a]
and never with the English/Latin [A]."
[A] is the vowel in (for example) BrE "father"; [a] is a bit more open
than the vowel in BrE "cat" which is traditionally written [æ] (or
[&] in ASCII renditions of IPA) but is significantly more open
than the Norwegian vowel with that spelling. Phonemically, both "cat"
and "thanks" have /&/, but in my speech the former is phonetically
[a], while the latter is still [&].
So, when snooty baristas repeat my order of "latte" (['lateI])
back as what they think is the vastly more Italian ['lA:teI] (the
colon means the vowel is long), they replace the only thing in my
pronunciation that happens by chance to coincide with the Italian with
something that is completely wrong.
Genuinely Italian would be ['lat:e] (the double t means its geminated
or long, so it gets the colon), which I can pronounce just fine, thank you,
although if I were speaking Italian I would ask for a "caffè latte",
since "latte" just means milk and is likely to be misunderstood,
except I wouldn't, I'd order an espresso instead. When in Rome, isn't
installments of this engrossing saga
still available, while stocks last.)
2003-03-20 12:01 (UTC)
like is about how it's being told to us, which is not especially
like it is.
One of the most central metaphors in our foreign policy is that A
Nation Is A Person. It is used hundreds of times a day, every time the
nation of Iraq is conceptualized in terms of a single person, Saddam
Hussein. The war, we are told, is not being waged against the Iraqi
people, but only against this one person. Ordinary American citizens
are using this metaphor when they say things like, "Saddam is a
tyrant. He must be stopped." What the metaphor hides, of course, is
that the 3000 bombs to be dropped in the first two days will not be
dropped on that one person. They will kill many thousands of the
people hidden by the metaphor, people that according to the metaphor
we are not going to war against.
Remember, though, this isn't about oil:
In Gulf War I, Bush I tried out a self-defense story: Saddam was
"threatening our oil line-line." The American people didn't buy
it. Then he found a winning story, a rescue story - The Rape of
Kuwait. It sold well, and is still the most popular account of that
In Gulf War II, Bush II is pushing different versions of the same two
story types, and this explains a great deal of what is going on in the
American press and in speeches by Bush and Powell. If they can show
that Saddam = Al Quaeda - that he is helping or harboring Al Qaeda,
then they can make a case for the Self-defense scenario, and hence for
a just war on those grounds. Indeed, despite the lack of any positive
evidence and the fact that the secular Saddam and the fundamentalist
bin Laden despise each other, the Bush administration has managed to
convince 40 per cent of the American public of the link, just by
asserting it. The administration has told its soldiers the same thing,
and so our military men see themselves as going to Iraq in defense of
[via Mr Wood and His Celebrated
The Bible in Polari:
1 In the beginning Gloria created the heaven and the earth.
2 And the earth was nanti form, and void; and munge was upon the eke
of the deep. And the nanti lucoddy of Gloria trolled upon the eke of
So we'd better have "How bona to vada your eek!" to wash it down with,
isn't it, Sir or Madam?
It is intrinsically funny that Ethnologue
entry (and a code) for Polari, but never more so, I like to think,
than in such a context as this is.
And since I was last out trolling for a spot of Polari action, the
original Round the Horne
seem to have come online and everything.
2003-03-19 13:27 (UTC)
It's good to know you can rely on Kronprinsess Vickan. In camouflage gear, oh my!
You can declare war every day of the week (and twice on Sundays) so
long as you keep the Princesses in Uniform photoshoots coming!
I'm hunting bugs.
Thankyouverymuch, I'll be here all week.
2003-03-18 14:24 (UTC)
explanation of the game itself, at a .edu address. Long
and looks very thorough. (I didn't check.)
And an explanation of the game's timeless appeal, again via the
15th over: Sri Lanka 60-5
Brad Hogg comes on immediately gets some turn. Too much turn, in fact,
as one slides past Gilchrist for a few byes. "I hardly understand any
of the rules of cricket, but I've still being paying attention since
it's clearly much better than working, and it has the advantage over,
say, football, that it passes an entire working day," says a
tungsten-sharp Øystein Brekke from Norway.
Of course, a proper cricket match takes five days, as someone
else promptly points out, and it goes on at an agreeably relaxed pace
most of that time. For many years BBC Radio 4's Test Match
Special broadcast every ball of Test Matches in England,
apparently largely as an excuse for the charming old buffers it
employed to sit around at an all-day tea party. Lately, though, there
has been a distressing tendency to replace them with former players
who will insist on going and and on about the cricket, and hardly ever
tell you about interesting buses past the ground, the behaviour of
pigeons on the ground, or the cakes sent in by listeners, all of which
had been staples in the programmes hey-day. Perhaps best of all was
the period when it occupied the FM stereo frequency of snooty
classical station Radio 3, shunting the Mozart onto crappy old medium
All of which is to say that the Guardian's coverage taps into a deep
reservoir of silliness, and seems to be combining the best of sporting
commentary, blogging and the spirit of TMS passim. I wish I'd known
they were doing this earlier.
It turns out that the football world cup was a classic, too; here's an
from the US vs. Mexico match:
64 min: GOAL Mexico 0 - 2 USA. Two soccer points to no score!
Eddie Lewis makes a cross-pitch play from the left zone, finding
Landon Donovan alone in the danger area. He top-bodies the sphere into
the score bag, and Mexico have a double-negative stat!
Marvellous, marvellous stuff, and I detest football.
2003-03-18 12:16 (UTC)
The Guardian's live
cricket coverage continues to delight sentient beings the galaxy
34th over: Australia 141-3
Missed that over. Apologies. Was reading Matthew Norman waxing on
about my colleague Scott Murray in the Mirror. "Is putting a Phil
Collins album on in the office sufficient grounds for sacking?" asks
Marie Anderson. You have to ask, Marie?
Meanwhile in the books pages, American historian Henry Kamen has been
annoying the Spanish:
Mr Kamen's book has shaken the accepted, school-taught Spanish view of
the New World conquista as an epic tale of organised empire-building
carried out by brave, loyal Spaniards for the greater glory of their
country and monarchs.
The historian has, instead, painted the destruction of the Inca and
Aztec civilisations as the work of ruthless, self-interested
entrepeneurs and mercenaries who used the Spanish crown as little more
than a shield for their ambitions.
Say it isn't so! Younger readers may need to be reminded that Spain
was ruled by the Fascist dictator General Franco until well into the
70's, and probably missed a bunch of memoes during that time.
Spanish conservatives, meanwhile, are busily saying it isn't so.
My theory, which is mine, is that history lessons in EU countries
should only be taught by teachers from other EU country,
using textbooks written by scholars from every EU country except that of the pupils. This wouldn't lead to greater tolerance, mutual European
understanding or even a higher level of immunity to nationalist
bullshit, of course, but it would be worth it just for the letters to
2003-03-18 09:33 (UTC)
In a meeting late yesterday afternoon with my American boss and my
Spanish cow-orker (I am UKian, remember) we established that we were
not at all keen on all this war malarkey. Sadly, although we are
surely more representative of the feelings of at least two of our
nations than their elected leaders, this is unlikely to make much
In any case, Tony
"The Twat" Blair has paused half-way through a "reform" of the
House of Lords, having thrown out the hereditary peers (who tended to
be Tories) and absent-mindedly forgotten to replace them with anything
else, thus muzzling an already toothless second chamber.
In UK elections, voters select an MP for their constituency (on a
first past the post basis) and a party or coalition with a majority in
the House of Commons will then be invited (by Her Majesty the Queen,
hurrah!) to form a government, under the leadership of a Prime
Minister of its choosing. In other words, I didn't vote for Mr Blair
as president, I voted for an MP. And look where that's got me - Mr
Blair's willingness to ignore his party, as he has ignored public
opinion, amounts to a claim to a replace Parliament with a presidency
with essentially no checks on his power. No clearer expression of his
contempt for the system of UK democracy could be imagined.
There is a striking parallel here with Mr Bush's contempt for
international consensus - there appears to be a feeling that it is no
longer necessary to observe any niceties; instead you can do whatever
you think you can get away with. (Oh, and puh-lease, don't
try and tell me that Spain and that twat who thinks he speaks for the
UK are even a credible fig leaf of international consensus.)
I am really quite cross about all this. I detest all activism and
demonstrations, of course, but Mr Blair has crossed some important
lines, lately, and I might just have to join the many who he has
succeded in inspiring to act in recent weeks. If this war ends up
creating the momentum needed to reform the dangerously eccentric UK
system of government then that would be no great consolation to any
Iraquis squished in the process or their surviving relatives, I
suppose, but it would make me feel better, and that's the important
Une manifestante pour la paix, munie d'un bouquet de jonquilles et
d'un slogan «Vive la France», se présente lundi midi devant une base
de la Royal Air Force dans le Gloucestershire.
[A demonstration for peace, equipped with a bouquet of daffodils and
the slogan "Vive la France" presents itself Monday afternoon in front
of an RAF base in Gloucestershire.]
It's a special kind of achievement to unite so much of the UK
population in support of the French, make no mistake about it. But
for now "Vive la France!" is very much the slogan du jour. Well done,
Tony. Now, about these trains...
2003-03-17 16:46 (UTC)
Who the hell do they think they're kidding?
USA, Storbritannien och Spanien har dragit tillbaka sitt förslag på en
ny resolution om Irak.
Nu försöker man inte längre få ett stöd från FN.
I natt framträder president George Bush och beskedet till Saddam
Hussein väntas bli:
- Lämna Irak - annars blir det krig.
[The USA, the UK and Spain have abandoned their proposals for a new
resolution on Iraq.
They're no longer trying to obtain a mandate from the UN.
Tonight George Bush will perform and the message to Saddam Hussein is
expected to be:
- Leave Iraq - or it's war.]
There is much to object to here, but most grating is the apparent
delusion on behalf of the Spanish and UKish governments that they
actually contributed to the process. (Blair, you dismal wanker,
you're fooling precisely no one, you do realise that, don't you?)
The timing of this war was set by the need to get it over with before
the desert gets too hot; the diplomatic kerfufflage we've been
subjected to has just been tinsel and show-business.
2003-03-17 12:08 (UTC)
Back when I watched TV (the shame of it!) one of the highlights was a
comedy sketch show called The Fast Show,
and one of the highlights of that was a running gag (the show
was a collection of running gags and catch phrases) based on a
$MEDITERRANEAN TV channel called (I think) Channel 5. The
whole segment would be done in a made-up language based mostly on the
sound of Italian, with bits of Spanish. "Goodbye" was "Boutros
Bourtros-Gali", and don't knock it till you've tried it.
Anyway, one of these had this bimbette doing the weather and, what
with it being the Med and that, everywhere was "Scorchio!". The
consistent repetition of this was funny enough (with a weather map
completely covered with sun icons) and the little pause between
stating the location and the unvarying diagnosis...
But see for yourself, Varied Reader - the script is
CA: Hello! Classiya costa para dos meterology a Valley
Portos... scorchio! In lea por notra anterior...
scorchio! E nu como a ta exterior... scorchio!
Manto Blanco... scorchio! Coasta... scorchio!
Metorologicos manyana... Oh - scorchio!
PS: Mmm - scorchio!
PW: Brrrr-rrrr! [PW mimes being cold]
The final Brrr-rrrr! was one of the great television moments of
our times, and scorchio! has stuck in British usage ever since.
2003-03-17 09:05 (UTC)
The Amazon fairy not having arrived in time and the public library
only being able to provide a Berlitz cassette course and the need for
a finite verb having reached the point of desparation, the Italian
study weekend took a slightly different course from that initially
envisaged. Instead of the anticipated orgy of paradigm-bashing I got
myself all immersified and that, which was at least good practice in
the art of spotting long consonants ("greenness" provides a
rare English example).
On Sunday it was so warm out that I just sat out in the garden with a
glass of wine reading the accompanying book out loud in my best
Italian accent. Ironically, this is probably the most successful
assimilation of Scandiwegian behaviour I have yet managed - out
fetishising the first of the spring sun and dreaming of Syden ("the
South", which is at the centre of the contemporary Scandewegian
mytho-poetic universe). It won't last, of course - in another month
or so it'll be too hot for me and I'll go back to dreaming of a little
wooden cabin beside a fjord.