Category Archives: Uncategorized

A selective list of literacy charities & programs

In Port Morsby, Papua New Guinea, children are seen at Buk bilong Pikinini (Books for Children), an independent not-for-profit organisation that aims to establish children’s libraries and foster a love of reading and learning.

Literacy and access to information have been shown to reduce poverty, providing opportunities for work, increasing household income, even improving the health of children. A child born to a mother who can read is 50% more likely to survive past the age of five.

At a time when literacy and education are under threat from the new U.S. administration, and people are looking to donate to causes that matter to them, Glossophilia offers a selective list of charities devoted to improving literacy and promoting a love of reading. Please feel free to add links to other notable organizations supporting literacy, and please donate what you can to this important global cause. Continue reading

You say happy, I say merry …

ujbauble     USbauble

Yes, we’re separated by a common language — and it’s no different when it comes to the subject of Yuletide yacking: the Brits and the Americans just aren’t on the same page when they’re talking Chrimbo*. Ever find yourself wondering what a mince pie really is? Or what an Englishman is doing when he’s pulling a cracker? What is the name of the fat man who comes down the chimney? And are we meant to be wishing each other a happy or a merry Christmas?

Here’s a Brit-Yank Christmas glossary for your entertainment and amusement. Merry happy Chrimbo, and go pull a cracker! Continue reading

Glossophilia & glossophobia: no, they’re not the same (or the opposite, for that matter)

george6

A new TV ad  (for Google’s Nexus 7 tablet) opens with a young voice asking: “What is glossophobia“? And then we watch and find out — while following the ad’s nervous teenager about to give a speech — exactly what this colorful word means, as we also find out about Google’s new product.

Glossophobia means speech anxiety, or the fear of public speaking. It comes from the Greek word glōssa, meaning “tongue”, and φόβος (phobos), meaning “fear” or “dread”.

Glossophilia doesn’t mean the opposite of glossophobia, as we might logically assume it does (with “-philia”, meaning fondness or abnormal love, replacing “-phobia”). I’m a glossophile, but I’m also glossophobic. Glossophilia means a love of language, whether foreign or native. Glossophiles are people with a deep and passionate love of language and the structure of language, and they are often involved in the study of literary terminology as well as grammar, punctuation, and language structure and usage. But there’s nothing stopping them from being glossophobes too…

 

 

Amercia, and Bible-endorsed adultery

“Mistakes happen.  I don’t think any voter cares about a typo at the end of the day,” claimed a spokesman for Mitt Romney after his misspelled app attracted MERCI-less attention from the media.

Well, Mr. Romney, Glossophilia disagrees. If you want America’s vote, you’d better learn how to spell her name. And some of us do care.

Here on Cracked.com is a catalog of some of history’s more consequential (or at least notable) typos. My favorite? The 1631 reprint of the King James Bible, otherwise known as the “Wicked Bible”. Unfortunately a 17th-century proofreader failed to spot a missing word in Exodus 20:14: “Thou shalt commit adultery”.  Or perhaps it was a clever marketing ploy by those clever Stuart publishers hoping for a bestseller …

The 7 Most Disastrous Typos Of All Time

By: May 03, 2010

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We’ve all experienced the sting of the typo. Whether it’s spelling your boss Ted’s name with an A and two S’s in a company wide email or listing “jail” as your previous residence on a job application, they can happen to anyone, and often at the most unfortunate times.

Luckily, most of our typos don’t wind up changing world history. Not everyone is so lucky.

#7.
The Source of Spinach’s Power

Popeye the Sailor Man: you gotta love him. He talks like he’s been using his head to hammer nails for the past eight decades, likes his girls anorexic, starts more fights than Joe Biden on a month-long speech bender and sports enormous forearms that Mark McGwire can only whack off to. The source of his powers: spinach.


Back when steroids came in a can.

The Typo:

Unfortunately, it turns out that spinach’s claim to fame can be attributed to a typo from the 19th century, followed by one of the greatest conspiracies in the history of agriculture.

A 1870 German study that served as the basis for Popeye’s spinach-fueled ‘roid rage accidentally printed the decimal place for spinach’s iron content one spot too far to the right. For our non-mathematically inclined readers, that means the report claimed the vegetable had 10 times its actual amount of iron, which ended up equaling out to almost as much as red meat.


“No thanks, I’ll have the compost.”

As a result, entire generations of children, adults and doctors grew up thinking that eating spinach would turn you into freaking Wolverine.

The Result:

Unfortunately, it appears that all the E. Coli scares on the planet won’t erase one 140-year-old typo. You thought we were kidding about the spinach industry having a propaganda wing? To this day, the Kids edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica informs children that spinach is “loaded” with iron in the first sentence of its spinach entry, and the abridged version of the Encyclopedia uses three of its 79 word definition to tell us that “spinach is rich in iron.” Oddly, Britanica’s watermelon entry says nothing about its iron content, even though the fruit has just as much iron as spinach while managing to taste far less like shit.


That is a conspiracy.

#6.
The NASA Mariner 1 Mishap

Let’s face it: When the scale of your scientific failures are so grand that even Arthur C. Clarke starts cracking wise about them, it’s probably time to think seriously about switching to a more fitting career.


“Yeah, I didn’t realize rocket science had so much math.”

Such was the case for NASA in 1962 with the ill-fated launch of America’s first inter-planetary probe Mariner 1. The probe was supposed to fly close enough to Venus to fondle her for a bit.


“Sup?”

But instead it spazzed out due to a software-related guidance system failure not unlike those of video games unceremoniously rushed through production. In short, control of the craft reverted from the dead-accuracy of GoldenEye to the notorious Superman 64 faster than a speeding bullet crashing towards Earth at a thousand miles an hour.


Seriously, fuck this game.

The Typo:

This little bugger:

Some jackass forgot to write either the overbar or the period (or worse, both) over the R, which is apparently a big freaking deal due to rocket science being such a harsh mistress. Treat her right and she’ll send you soaring off to strange new worlds, but screw up once and she’ll slam a car door on your balls until they explode across eight states (in a bad way).


Ms. Rocket Science.

The Result:

Once it became clear that this software error had rendered Mariner 1 little more than an enormous Scud missile, NASA had no choice but to detonate the $80 million craft less than five minutes after launch.


Legend has it that Michael Bay was born at that exact moment.

Arthur C. Clarke famously described the missing overbar as “the most expensive hyphen in history,” which was made all the more costly due to it being $80 million back when a movie ticket cost less than a dollar.

#5.
Mizuho Securities Drops the Ball. Twice.

While suicide may seem a ready prescription in Japan for everything from bad test scores to sheer boredom, this begs the question as to what is considered excessive by Japanese standards. Like, say… what does the average Tokyo businessman do after costing his company almost as much money as it cost to make Titanic? In 24 hours?


Any good gambler knows you don’t quit while you’re losing. You let that bastard ride!

The Typo(s):

“Sorry son of a bitch” just doesn’t come close to describing the financial judgment day Mizuho Securities experienced on December 15, 2005. It all started when they debuted the now hilariously legendary job recruitment company J-Com Co. with the intention of offering it at 610,000 yen per share ($5,041). A typo pegged it significantly below that. At one yen per share.

While this was a disastrous enough move on its own to warrant seppuku, the shit-meter spiked to Battlefield Earth-levels once it was revealed that Mizuho Securities had also offered 41 times the number of J-Com Co. shares actually in existence. It’d be like you selling more than 40 times the number of copies of The Amazing Spider-Man #1 that were printed for less than a penny apiece on eBay… and being forced to back up your offer in yen for any dissatisfied customers.


A thousand nerds just passed out from that analogy.

The Result:

Since do-overs are not allowed in the Tokyo Stock Exchange, Mizuho Securities was forced to watch in horror (and likely with a gun on the table) as their company hemorrhaged millions over what for all we know was just a poorly-placed coffee cup. By the time this 24-hour snuff film was over, these twin typos cost Mizuho Securities $225 million.


Cheer up, guy who lost the new iPhone; it could have been worse.

#4.
The Real Bruce Wayne Sentenced to Death… Due to a Typo

Regardless of what you think about the death penalty, we are probably all in universal agreement that you really need to dot your I’s and cross your T’s when it comes to executions, especially when the dude they’re killing is named Bruce Wayne.


More or less, this happened.

The Typo:

In 1985, an extremely un-Batmanlike Bruce Wayne Morris was convicted of robbing and killing a man with a non-proverbial but deeply ironic stick and stone.

The time came for sentencing, and the jury had to decide between execution, or sticking the guy behind bars forever without any chance of going free. Seems pretty simple.

Well, it was, until the judge issued written instructions to the jury that an imprisoned Bruce Wayne would not have the possibility of making parole… and accidentally left the “not” part out. The jury, now mistakenly thinking that they had to pick between death and letting the dude maybe roam the streets again in a few years, picked death.

The Result:

It took more than 10 years and a freaking federal appeals court to reverse the decision on the grounds that the state of California was on the verge of executing Bruce Wayne due to a typo.


Not cool, California.

Of course, by then the trial had already gobbled up hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of tax-payer dollars that California could have been using to avoid going bankrupt with.

#3.
Bullshit Word Added to the English Language

Because English is a bit of an all-sorts language, you’ll find that it includes words from all sorts of crazy places (such as the now-treasured f-word). However, every now and then you will come across a word in the English dictionary whose etymology is not Greek or Latin, but freaking Typo. “Dord”, introduced to the world in 1931, is one of those words.


dord, n. [Typo.] Example: “Dord!”

The Typo:

This delightful word first surfaced in the Webster’s Third New International Dictionary as a noun in physics and chemistry meaning density. Since then, “dord” enjoyed a happy run throughout the cheerful years known as the 1930s until some editor noticed on February 28, 1939 (yes, we know the exact date) that the word lacked etymology (i.e. a back-story).


Doored.

After an extensive investigation by whom we can only assume were the Grammar Police, it was revealed that “dord” was originally submitted on July 31, 1931 by Austin M. Patterson, Webster’s chemistry editor (yes, we know all this information as well), to read “D or d,” an abbreviated form of density. But if the letters are squeezed a little too close together…

The Result:

For those of you keeping score, you may be surprised by the vast amount of information we have surrounding this typo right down to the day, month and year. How do we know all this? Simple: Do not screw with the Grammar Police, particularly the English ones.


Grammar Police. Coming soon from the makers of Snatch and Masterpiece Theater.

As for the pronunciation, they clearly pulled that out of their ass.

#2.
The Chilean Ex-Change

When the managing director at the Chilean Mint accidentally allowed a misprinted series of coins to enter circulation, it wasn’t something lame nobody would notice, like with the microscopic direction of the corn husks on the flawed Wisconsin state quarter. Similarly, it wasn’t something awesome that anybody would have bought him a beer with, like misprinted paper money .

No. In this case, engraver Pedro Urzua Lizana made a mistake in December of 2008 that slipped under the radar of all his superiors, including boss and head of the Chilean Mint Gregorio Iniguez. Under the approval of Lizana, Iniguez, and “several other employees,” the Chilean Mint misspelled the name of their own freaking country.


And not in the way you might think.

The Typo:


No, that’s not a lowercase L.

The Result:

God only knows how many of these “Chiie” coins were pumped into circulation, since it wasn’t until 10 months later that anybody noticed. The whole cabal was sacked for the humiliating oversight, and the Chilean government had no choice but to keep the coins in circulation.


In Gob We Trust.

However, those responsible may be crying all the way to the bank since the coins have since become sick collector’s items. Also, when you consider that these were 50-peso pieces that got misprinted (roughly 10 cents each), just a sock-full of these slugs on eBay would be worth more than a dump truck full of pennies.


Pictured: a dump truck full of pennies.

#1.
The Wicked Bible

While it’s no secret that the Bible has been subjected to more alterations than Star Wars, one needs look no further than the 1631 reprint of the King James Bible–better known as the Wicked Bible–for all the proof you need that God exists, and that He appears to have a decent sense of humor.

To reprint the King James Bible, royal printers Robert Barker and Martin Lucas had to arrange an exact duplicate of the original book and all its 1,189 chapters, 31,101 verses and 783,137 words like Mahershalalhashbaz just begging to be misspelled.

However, since book printing was on par with individually carving all the parts for an Oldsmobile out of walnut wood, they amazingly eked out only one major typo: a missing word in Exodus 20:14. Unfortunately, that one missing word out of the 783,137 others turned out to be kind of an important one.


“Eh. Close enough.”

The Typo:

Yup. “Thou shalt commit adultery.”

The Result:

Historians have yet to reach a consensus as to whether the typo is the reason for England’s larger than average population of complete bastards. What we do know is that King Charles I ordered the printers be stripped of their business license and fined 300 pounds for their hilarious oversight, or roughly all the money a person back then could make in a freaking lifetime. The King then ordered every existing copy of the offending book to be burned; an order carried out so thoroughly that today only 11 of the books exist.


Making it just slightly rarer than the original, grittier cut of Hop on Pop.

Karma comes around, however, and Charles I eventually became the first sitting king in English history to be put on trial for treason, and subsequently executed. Surprisingly this was not for taking away the country’s blank check to commit adultery.


It’s amazing they didn’t chop his head off three times just for this portrait.
Read more: The 7 Most Disastrous Typos Of All Time | Cracked.com http://www.cracked.com/article_18517_the-7-most-disastrous-typos-all-time_p2.html#ixzz1wTcgvPdY

The Most Comma Mistakes, by Ben Yagoda

A must read …

Posted yesterday on the New York Times Opinionator blog.

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/05/21/the-most-comma-mistakes/

May 21, 2012, 9:17 pm

The Most Comma Mistakes

By BEN YAGODA

Draft is a series about the art and craft of writing.

As I noted in my earlier article, rules and conventions about when to use and not to use commas are legion. But certain errors keep popping up. Here are a few of them.

Identification Crisis
If I’ve seen it once, I’ve seen it a thousand times. I’m referring to a student’s writing a sentence like:

I went to see the movie, “Midnight in Paris” with my friend, Jessie.

Comma after “movie,” comma after “friend” and, sometimes, comma after “Paris” as well. None is correct — unless “Midnight in Paris” is the only movie in the world and Jessie is the writer’s only friend. Otherwise, the punctuation should be:

I went to see the movie “Midnight in Paris” with my friend Jessie.

If that seems wrong or weird or anything short of clearly right, bear with me a minute and take a look at another correct sentence:

I went to see Woody Allen’s latest movie, “Midnight in Paris,” with my oldest friend, Jessie.

You need a comma after “movie” because this and only this is Mr. Allen’s newest movie in theaters, and after “Jessie” because she and only she is the writer’s oldest friend.

The syntactical situation I’m talking about is identifier-name. The basic idea is that if the name (in the above example, “Jessie”) is the only thing in the world described by the identifier (“my oldest friend”), use a comma before the name (and after it as well, unless you’ve come to the end of the sentence). If not, don’t use any commas.

Grammatically, there are various ways of describing what’s going on. One helpful set of terms is essential vs. nonessential. When the identifier makes sense in the sentence by itself, then the name is nonessential and you use a comma before it. Otherwise, no comma. That explains an exception to the only-thing-in-the-world rule: when the words “a,” “an” or “some,” or a number, come before the description or identification of a name, use a comma.

A Bronx plumber, Stanley Ianella, bought the winning lottery ticket.

When an identifier describes a unique person or thing and is preceded by “the” or a possessive, use a comma:

Baseball’s home run leader, Barry Bonds, will be eligible for the Hall of Fame next year.

My son, John, is awesome. (If you have just one son.)

But withhold the comma if not unique:

My son John is awesome. (If you have more than one son.)

The artist David Hockney is a master of color.

The celebrated British artist David Hockney is a master of color.

And even

The gay, bespectacled, celebrated British artist David Hockney is a master of color.

(Why are there commas after “gay” and “bespectacled” but not “celebrated”? Because “celebrated” and “British” are different sorts of adjectives. The sentence would not work if “and” were placed between them, or if their order were reversed.)

If nothing comes before the identification, don’t use a comma:

The defense team was led by the attorney Harold Cullen.

No one seems to have a problem with the idea that if the identification comes after the name, it should always be surrounded by commas:

Steve Meyerson, a local merchant, gave the keynote address.

However, my students, at least, often wrongly omit a “the” or an “a” in sentences of this type:

Jill Meyers, sophomore, is president of the sorority.

To keep the commas, it needs to be:

Jill Meyers, a sophomore, is president of the sorority.

Peter Arkle

The Case of the Missing Comma
A related issue is the epidemic of missing commas after parenthetical phrases or appositives — that is, self-enclosed material that’s within a sentence, but not essential to its meaning. The following sentences all lack a necessary comma. Can you spot where?

My father, who gave new meaning to the expression “hard working” never took a vacation.

He was born in Des Moines, Iowa in 1964.

Philip Roth, author of “Portnoy’s Complaint” and many other books is a perennial contender for the Nobel Prize.

If you said “working,” “Iowa” and “books,” give yourself full marks. I’m not sure why this particular mistake is so tempting. It may sometimes be because these phrases are so long that by the time we get to the end of them, we’ve forgotten about the first comma. In any case, a strategy to prevent it is to remember the acronym I.C.E. Whenever you find yourself using a comma before an Identification, Characterization or Explanation, remember that there has to be a comma after the I.C.E. as well.

Splice Girls, and Boys
“Comma splice” is a term used for the linking of two independent clauses — that is, grammatical units that contain a subject and a verb and could stand alone as sentences — with a comma. When I started teaching at the University of Delaware some years ago, I was positively gobsmacked by the multitude of comma splices that confronted me. They have not abated.

Here’s an example:

He used to be a moderate, now he’s a card-carrying Tea Partier.

It’s easy to fix in any number of ways:

He used to be a moderate. Now he’s a card-carrying Tea Partier.

He used to be a moderate; now he’s a card-carrying Tea Partier.

He used to be a moderate, but now he’s a card-carrying Tea Partier.

He used to be a moderate — now he’s a card-carrying Tea Partier.

How to choose among them? By reading aloud — always the best single piece of writing advice — and choosing the version that best suits the context, your style and your ear. I would go with the semicolon. How about you?

Two particular situations seem to bring out a lot of comma splices. The first is in quotations:

“The way they’ve been playing, the team will be lucky to survive the first round,” the coach said, “I’m just hoping someone gets a hot hand.”

The comma after “said” has to be replaced with a period.

The other issue is the word “however,” which more and more people seem to want to use as a conjunction, comparable to “but” or “yet.” So they will write something like:

The weather is great today, however it’s supposed to rain tomorrow.

That may be acceptable someday. Today, however, it’s a comma splice. Correct punctuation could be:

The weather is great today, but it’s supposed to rain tomorrow.

Or

The weather is great today. However, it’s supposed to rain tomorrow.

Comma splices can be O.K. when you’re dealing with short clauses where even a semicolon would slow things down too much:

I talked to John, John talked to Lisa.

Samuel Beckett was the poet laureate of the comma splice. He closed his novel “The Unnamable” with a long sentence that ends:

… perhaps it’s done already, perhaps they have said me already, perhaps they have carried me to the threshold of my story, before the door that opens on my story, that would surprise me, if it opens, it will be I, it will be the silence, where I am, I don’t know, I’ll never know, in the silence you don’t know, you must go on, I can’t go on, I’ll go on.

Which goes to show, I suppose, that rules are made to be broken.

A career change and an Oscar – by way of 180 choice words …

Isn’t this just the best letter seeking employment (and a change of career) you’ve ever read? It landed Robert Pirosh a job as a screenwriter in 1930s Hollywood – and it began with his simple statement: “I like words.” Posted last month on Letters of Note – a treasure-trove of a web site that collects and  publishes ‘correspondence deserving of a wider audience’.

http://www.lettersofnote.com/2012/03/i-like-words.html

 

I like words

 

When copywriter Robert Pirosh landed in Hollywood in 1934, eager to become a screenwriter, he wrote and sent the following letter to all the directors, producers, and studio executives he could think of. The approach worked, and after securing three interviews he took a job as a junior writer with MGM.

Pirosh went on to write for the Marx Brothers, and in 1949 won an Academy Award for his Battleground script.

(Source: Dear Wit.)

Dear Sir:

I like words. I like fat buttery words, such as ooze, turpitude, glutinous, toady. I like solemn, angular, creaky words, such as straitlaced, cantankerous, pecunious, valedictory. I like spurious, black-is-white words, such as mortician, liquidate, tonsorial, demi-monde. I like suave “V” words, such as Svengali, svelte, bravura, verve. I like crunchy, brittle, crackly words, such as splinter, grapple, jostle, crusty. I like sullen, crabbed, scowling words, such as skulk, glower, scabby, churl. I like Oh-Heavens, my-gracious, land’s-sake words, such as tricksy, tucker, genteel, horrid. I like elegant, flowery words, such as estivate, peregrinate, elysium, halcyon. I like wormy, squirmy, mealy words, such as crawl, blubber, squeal, drip. I like sniggly, chuckling words, such as cowlick, gurgle, bubble and burp.

I like the word screenwriter better than copywriter, so I decided to quit my job in a New York advertising agency and try my luck in Hollywood, but before taking the plunge I went to Europe for a year of study, contemplation and horsing around.

I have just returned and I still like words.

May I have a few with you?

Robert Pirosh
385 Madison Avenue
Room 610
New York
Eldorado 5-6024

 

C. S. Lewis on Writing

Published today on Letters of Note.

http://www.lettersofnote.com/2012/04/c-s-lewis-on-writing.html

C. S. Lewis on Writing

 

Considering he wrote The Chronicles of Narnia, one of the most popular collections of children’s literature of all time, it’s no real surprise that C. S. Lewis received thousands of letters from youngsters during his career. What’s admirable is that he attempted to reply to each and every one of those pieces of fan mail, and not just with a generic, impersonal line or two.

The fantastic letter seen below is a perfect example. It was sent by Lewis to a young American fan named Joan Lancaster in June of 1956 — just a few months before the seventh and final book of the series, The Last Battle, was published — and is actually an invaluable, generous response filled with practical writing advice, all of which still rings true.

(Source: The wonderful, C. S. Lewis’ Letters to Children; Image: C. S. Lewis at work, via .)

The Kilns,
Headington Quarry,
Oxford
26 June 1956

Dear Joan–

Thanks for your letter of the 3rd. You describe your Wonderful Night v. well. That is, you describe the place and the people and the night and the feeling of it all, very well — but not the thing itself — the setting but not the jewel. And no wonder! Wordsworth often does just the same. His Prelude (you’re bound to read it about 10 years hence. Don’t try it now, or you’ll only spoil it for later reading) is full of moments in which everything except the thing itself is described. If you become a writer you’ll be trying to describe the thing all your life: and lucky if, out of dozens of books, one or two sentences, just for a moment, come near to getting it across.

About amn’t Iaren’t I and am I not, of course there are no right or wrong answers about language in the sense in which there are right and wrong answers in Arithmetic. “Good English” is whatever educated people talk; so that what is good in one place or time would not be so in another. Amn’t I was good 50 years ago in the North of Ireland where I was brought up, but bad in Southern England. Aren’t I would have been hideously bad in Ireland but very good in England. And of course I just don’t know which (if either) is good in modern Florida. Don’t take any notice of teachers and textbooks in such matters. Nor of logic. It is good to say “more than one passenger was hurt,” although more than one equals at least two and therefore logically the verb ought to be plural were not singular was!

What really matters is:–

1. Always try to use the language so as to make quite clear what you mean and make sure your sentence couldn’t mean anything else.

2. Always prefer the plain direct word to the long, vague one. Don’t implement promises, but keep them.

3. Never use abstract nouns when concrete ones will do. If you mean “More people died” don’t say “Mortality rose.”

4. In writing. Don’t use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the thing you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us a thing was “terrible,” describe it so that we’ll be terrified. Don’t say it was “delightful”; make us say “delightful” when we’ve read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers, “Please will you do my job for me.”

5. Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say “infinitely” when you mean “very”; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.

Thanks for the photos. You and Aslan both look v. well. I hope you’ll like your new home.

With love
yours
C.S. Lewis