Filed under “Language”

February 7, 2013

Idea: The Exclamation Point Limiter!

[This post is part of an idea dump.]

Do you know someone who uses excessive exclamation points in their emails, Facebook updates, and tweets? Perhaps it’s time you have a talk with him or her, and suggest they install the Exclamation Point Limiter. It’s a piece of software that runs in the background of their computer and trains them to use exclamation points in a way that doesn’t call to mind F. Scott Fitzgerald’s quote: “An exclamation point is like laughing at your own jokes.”

How does it work? At first, it’s generous. The person using the software gets 15 exclamation points they can use each week. Eventually over time, it winds down to three a week. Each Monday, the counter resets and they get three exclamation points to use however they want. They can all be wasted at the end of one sentence!!! Or they can be used sparingly, and only when truly needed.

July 31, 2012

Idea: Text Supercuts

You’re familiar with supercuts, those obsessively edited videos that show you, for example, every utterance of the phrase Damn It from every season of the show “24”.

Well, here’s a supercut of a different kind: the text supercut. Need an example?

Here’s every use of the word “cat” from Dr. Suess’ book The Cat in the Hat:

Cat cat. Cat cat Cat cat. Cat cat. cat. cat. cat cat. Cat Cat Cat cat. cat. cat Cat cat Cat cat, cat. cat cat! Cat

[My first effort was a supercut of every instance of “whale” in Moby Dick. But it turns out the word appears so many times that it ended up being way too large to reasonably share in a blog post.]

January 30, 2012

Idea: Add Thsrs to a Twitter App

Back in 2008 I launched Thsrs, an online Thesaurus that only returns synonyms shorter than your search query. It was intended for Twitter users who are having trouble staying under 140 characters. It’s still used frequently by a small group of people — a typical busy day sees a few hundred lookups — and I hear from copy editors who tell me how useful it is when they’re trying to write headlines. But I haven’t really done much with it since the launch.

In the meantime, a lot of Twitter apps have emerged with competing features and styles. But as far as I know, nobody has integrated a similar feature in their product. It would be a great tool to have while you’re actually composing a tweet.

So I’m putting this idea out there for any Twitter client who wants to use it, but I’m specifically looking at you, Tweetbot. Add Thsrs to your app so that while I’m in the middle of writing a tweet, I can just highlight the term, tap “Thsrs…” (or whatever you want to call it in your implementation), and get a list of synonyms shorter than the word I’ve highlighted.

I don’t actually know if the iOS API allows for custom features in the copy/paste/etc popup dialogue. But if it doesn’t, I’m sure you can find some other clever way of integrating it. Maybe a Thsrs button on the compose screen next to all those other gear/tag/camera/etc icons?

November 29, 2011

Keming Revisited

In early 2008, I coined the term keming, defining it as “the result of improper kerning.”

It’s a nerdy graphic design joke, and it became one of my more popular posts. Readers suggested that I create some keming merchandise. So I did. The t-shirts are the most popular items, but my favorites are the mug and spiral notebook (both of which make excellent stocking stuffers).

I began to dream that the word would be widely adopted and become an actual part of graphic design language. How awesome would it be to coin a word that people actually use?

Well, it turns out that the word has caught on in some circles, and has become common enough that it’s somewhat disassociated with me. I occasionally meet people surprised to discover that I coined it. Well, if you weren’t reading this blog four years ago, I guess you wouldn’t know. So I thought I’d reconnect with the word in a follow-up post examining some of the places I’ve seen it used.

A Design Reference Book

In 2009, Armin Vit and Bryony Gomez-Palacio of the design firm UnderConsideration published a comprehensive reference book on all things design.

It’s called Graphic Design, Referenced: A Visual Guide to the Language, Applications, and History of Graphic Design and it has nothing but 5-star reviews on Amazon. It looks like a pretty nice book. You can see details and sample spreads on their site where they call it “a comprehensive source of information and inspiration by documenting and chronicling the scope of contemporary graphic design, stemming from the middle of the twentieth century to today.”

They reference keming on page 74:

Here’s a detail of the page:

Urban Dictionary

Urban Dictionary, the online resource for made up words, has an entry for keming where three people have submitted examples of the word used in a sentence. They are:

What the helvetica, your kerning has turned into one massive keming fest. What the font were you thinking?

The typographer who worked on that film just pulled a keming by not having equal spacing between each letter in each word in the opening credits.

I ’ mtryingtosetspacing, butIcan ’ tseemtogetthekemingright.

I’m not sure I would say that someone “pulled a keming” but maybe that’s a regional use.

A Whole Blog About Keming

Earlier this year, a designer in the Netherlands named Kilian Valkhof started a tumblr called Fuck Yeah Keming, “a celebration of horrendous kerning all over the internet.” He has some good examples. Check it out.

Reddit

My old posts don’t usually get that much traffic, but the original keming post still gets hits on a regular basis from one site in particular: reddit.

Redditors have taken a liking to keming, and it comes up often in the comments. Usually the submitted article features some sort of keming, which prompts someone in the comments to say “Nice keming there.” Then someone replies, “WTF is keming?” And then someone else replies with a link to my site.

So, thanks for keeping keming alive, redditors!

Wikipedia

It appears that on three occasions, different people (not me) created Wikipedia pages for keming. All three were later deleted. According to the Wikipedia deletion log the reasons were as follows.

The first time: “Not enough context to identify subject”

The second time: “Patent nonsense, meaningless, or incomprehensible: db|WP is not a dictionary”

The third time: The page was set up to redirect to the entry for kerning, but was deleted after discussion decided that “‘Keming’ is a joke word invented by David Friedman… When the redirect was created the target article referred to the joke, but it’s since been removed due to lack of coverage in any reliable source so the redirect doesn’t serve much purpose any more.”

Indeed, the wikipedia page for kerning has had references to keming written in (not by me) and deleted over the years. According to the revision history, the reference was changed to clarify that “keming is not what ‘improper kerning is called’; it’s a joke” and then removed completely because “the Ironic Sans blog does not appear to be an authoritative source.”

Who, I ask, is a more authoritative source on a word that I made up than me?

Currently, the Wikipedia entry for keming is a disambiguation page, which says “Keming may be… A satirical misspelling of kerning, referring to bad kerning which causes the letter pair ‘rn’ to appear as ‘m’”

If you have to explain it…

Other People’s Products

I occasionally hear from people telling me that they saw keming on someone else’s merchandise. Sometimes people just take my definition and put it on a shirt. That bothers me. But sometimes people come up with other clever uses for keming in joke form. My favorite is the Leam to kem shirt by Able Parris.

What else?

Do you use keming to mean improper kerning? Do you ever see or hear anyone else use it? Where else is it being used that I’ve overlooked?

A note about coining this word.

When I wrote the keming post, I first did a Google search to see whether or not the joke had been done before. All I found were a couple references to people with the name Keming, and other proper nouns (a school called Keming, for example). But it was hard to search because the vast majority of results were actual cases of keming the word kerning! A search result would contain the word “keming” but clicking through to the page would show an article about typography scanned in from a book or magazine and put through OCR. Every instance of the word “kerning” turned up as “keming” in Google. Here’s a typical example.

UPDATE: Here’s another great usage. A reader just wrote to tell me that he named his whole company after keming. It’s a technical design studio called Keming Labs. He says, “I really like the term and I ended up using it in my company name (I hope you don’t mind). We do data visualization stuff on the web, and ‘Keming Labs’ sounds serious enough when we meet with clients. It’s easy to tell clients who get the joke though, because they usually chuckle immediately.”

UPDATE 2: This is perhaps the most awesome keming update ever. I’ve known for a while that Google has a hidden joke in their search engine where, if you search for the word kerning you’ll see the word appear in the search results with too much space between each letter. But it was recently brought to my attention that a Google search for keming has the opposite joke. Everywhere the word appears in the search result listing, the letters are spaced too close together!

@ironicsans Did you see Google’s special formatting for “kerning” and “keming” searches? You changed Google.

— Andy Baio (@waxpancake) June 7, 2012

August 2, 2010

Mad Men Don’t Lie

I’m pretty good when it comes to grammar, but my wife is better, as I’m reminded every time I misuse the word lay and she corrects me. Some bad grammar sticks out like a sore thumb for me, but lay/lie misuse goes past me every time. My wife never fails to catch it, and she seemed to be pointing out lay/lie misuse every time we watched Mad Men. We wondered whether it’s the fault of the actors, or if they’re saying the lines faithfully as they’re written.

I decided to turn it into a learning opportunity. If I could catch every use and misuse of lay and lie in every episode of Mad Men so far, surely that would pound the lesson so firmly in my brain that I will never confuse the words ever again.

And so I made the video embedded above. Here is a list of every quote, from each episode in the first three seasons, in the order they appear in the video:

2.10 Joan: “Go ahead. Lay down. I’ll keep the drunks away.” (incorrect)
3.06 Joan: “Go lay down.” (incorrect)
1.10 Peggy: “Maybe you need me to lay on your couch to clear that up for you again.” (incorrect)
2.05 Peggy: “Do you mind if I lay down?” (incorrect)
2.05 Peggy: “I have to lie down” (correct)
1.03 Betty: “I’m going to go and lay the kids’ food out.” (correct)
3.01 Pete: “I should just lay down and we should run together holding hands.” (incorrect)
3.08 Pete: “I’d lie in bed at night, hear horses going by.” (correct)
1.13 Pete: “I think I should lie down.” (correct)
2.02 Don: “I’m going to lie down for a minute.” (correct)
2.12 Don: “Can I take a shower and lie down?” (correct)
2.10 Don: “Do you want me to lay everything out for you?” (correct)
3.09 Don: “I’m going to go lie down.” (correct) [Note: The subtitles for episode 3.09 say that Don says “I’m gonna go lay down” which is incorrect. But it sounds a lot to me like he says “I’m going to go lie down,” so I gave him a pass.]
3.11 Don: “I’m going to lie down.” (correct)
3.12 Don: “Take a pill and lie down.” (correct)
2.08 Ken: “You need someone to lay down on the barbed wire so you can run over them.” (incorrect)
3.07 Henry: “Victorian ladies would get overwhelmed. Corsets and things. They’d need a place to lie down.” (correct)
1.04 Client: “I hate to be a pain in the ass, but if they didn’t just lay there so flat.” (incorrect)
3.03 Carla: “Maybe you should lie down. Sally!” (correct)
2.04 Sally: “Do you lay on top of her?” (incorrect)
2.11 Jane: “I lay on my pillow at the Sherry-Netherland Hotel.” (incorrect)
2.03 Jennifer: “I need to lay down.” (incorrect)
2.04 Katherine: “And I don’t care if you have to lay there. Put your shoes on!” (incorrect)
2.04 Gerry: “I’m sorry, I’ve gotta lay down.” (incorrect)
3.12 TV: “Then Governor Connally, after slumping to the left for a moment, lay on the floor of the rear seats.” (incorrect) (correct) — My mistake. The reporter is speaking in past tense.

I originally included three clips that I later decided to remove:

In episode 3.01, Sal says, “Our worst fears lie in anticipation,” which is correct. But he’s quoting Balzac so I wasn’t sure if he should get credit for it. In fact, he even follows up the line by pointing out, “That’s not me. That’s Balzac.” (The actual Balzac quote is “Our worst misfortunes never happen, and most miseries lie in anticipation.”).

In episode 3.05, Don uses the same Balzac quote after hearing Sal say it. Again, I was unsure whether or not to include it for the same reason. But I did like that the character he’s talking to replies, “Are you sure about that?”

In episode 3.09, Sal says, “I think if I get away from Lucky Strike and lay low from Roger for a day or two, everything will be fine.” I wasn’t sure if the common expression lay low is grammatically correct or not. So I looked it up. Dictionary.com says that lay low means to overpower or defeat (as in “to lay low one’s attackers”). The phrase Sal should have used is lie low which means to conceal oneself (as in “Until the dispute is settled, you would do best to lie low.”). So Sal’s usage is technically incorrect. But “lie low” falls strangely on my ears, and lay low is a common enough expression that I couldn’t decide whether to give it a pass or not, so I chose to simply not include the clip at all.

March 3, 2009

Top Thsrs Search Terms

Back in July, I launched Thsrs, the on-line thesaurus that only gives results shorter than the word you look up. I’m pleasantly surprised to see that people are really using Thsrs to help them compose shorter Twitter messages, write more concise headlines, etc. So I thought it would be interesting to check my logs and find out what the top search terms are on Thsrs. What words are people trying to shorten?

The Top 30 Thsrs Search Terms are:

thesaurus
explain
dictionary
hello
love
beautiful
awesome
computer
complicated
penis
sex
fantastic
happy
synonym
abbreviation
ironic
ridiculous
amazing
excellent
internet
word
exhilarating
encyclopedia
available
house
information
sesquipedalian
establishment
long
wonderful

A lot of those are pretty obvious search terms, the sort of thing someone types in just to test Thsrs. So let’s jump ahead in the list to, oh, number 500. At that point, these are the next 30 most popular search terms on Thsrs (all are tied with 6 lookups):

preposterous
kiss
accommodate
copulation
request
carnivorous
wonder
plethora
establish
husband
movement
find
appointment
silly
advantage
transport
terrible
like
uninterrupted
constantinople
recognize
mirror
explanation
discovery
immediately
criticize
exquisite
trustworthy
face
splendid

I love that there are 6 people who looked up Constantinople.

July 15, 2008

Idea: Palindrome road trip

It’s not unheard of for small American towns to change their name in order to get publicity. So here’s an idea for a large scale coordinated multi-state name changing scheme that’s sure to draw tourists: In every state where it’s phonetically possible, there should be a town that creates a palindrome when combined with the state name. Then the ultimate road trip would be to drive from Aksala, Alaska to Adirolf, Florida visiting every palindromic town in between… and then driving back in reverse.* So far, it looks like Saxet, Texas and Adaven, Nevada are the only ones that already exist (sorry, Zion, Illinois — close but no cigar). Visiting Apollo, PA gets you bonus points.

*I mean visiting every city in reverse order, not driving with the car in reverse.

July 8, 2008

Idea: Thsrs, The Shorter Thesaurus

Popular new social networking services like Twitter, where users write extremely short messages about whatever’s on their minds, present a challenge: How can you intelligently get across a complex thought in just 140 characters without needing to use ugly abbreviations (e.g. “w/o needing 2 use ugly abbrev’s”)?

If only there were a service that helps with the struggle of rewriting a 146-letter message to fit in a 140 character limit. Well now there is: Thsrs, the thesaurus that only gives you synonyms shorter than the word you’re looking up. Just enter one of the longer words in your message, and Thsrs will suggest shorter words to use instead.

Try out the embedded version below, and bookmark www.thsrs.com so it’s always handy when you need it.*

Thsrs

1. Enter a long word.



2. Receive shorter synonyms.


* I considered calling it Sesquipedalian but I can never remember how to spell that. Thsrs was developed using the Big Huge Thesaurus API, and coding help from my friend Jay. This is a beta version, of course, so let me know if things go wrong.

Update: Thsrs is now available as a plug-in for your browser! Check out the Thsrs page for details.

Update: I thought I’d make a note about the word source, as some people have commented that Thsrs sometimes returns surprising results. Thsrs currently uses the Big Huge Thesaurus, which is based on the Princeton University WordNet Database, and has the distinction of being the only thesaurus I found with an API. If you know of a better easily-accessible Thesaurus word source, let me know and I’ll see about switching over. In the meantime, additions to the database can be suggested by visiting the BHT, looking up a word, and using the “Suggest” form at the bottom of the results page.

February 19, 2008

Idea: A new typography term

keming. noun. The result of improper kerning.

Update: Now available as a t-shirt.

December 4, 2007

Bookstore Befuddlement

About 10 years ago I worked in a large chain bookstore (where I once actually selected this book as my “employee pick”). I think I was a pretty good bookseller, but there was this one conversation I had with a customer that in retrospect I find amusing. I was standing in the Science and Computers section when he approached, looking for books on a particular topic.

“Excuse me,” he said. “Where can I find books about pediaphiles?”

Hmm, I thought. He’s looking for books about people who are sexually attracted to children. Well that could be in psychology, or true crime maybe. “What kind of book are you looking for?” I asked.

“Just a general book.”

“Well, are you interested in the psychology of pediaphiles? Or case studies?”

With obvious confusion on his face, he said, “I guess I’m trying to find out how they’re made.”

“Well, I think that would be psychology. Let me look in the computer and see what we have,” I replied, catching on that we were somehow miscommunicating something, but unsure what that might be.

“I don’t think it would be psychology,” he said, “I think it would be here in the computer section.”

“Books on pediaphiles?”

“Yeah.”

“Um…”

“Do you even know what a pediaphile is?” he asked, obviously thinking I’m an idiot.

“Well, I thought so.”

“It stands for Portable Document Format. It’s what you use when you want to e-mail a document and retain the formatting.”

“Oh! PDF file! I thought you were asking for… nevermind. Yes, we have books on PDF files.”

And I haven’t been able to look at a PDF attachment the same way since.

Note: I know, the word is “pedophile.” But the prefix “pedia-” as in “pediatrician” threw me off. I’ve also recently learned that people who edit a lot of wikipedia articles are sometimes called pediaphiles. None of these people should be confused with podophiles, who have foot fetishes.

June 18, 2007

The best and worst of The Economist

The Economist is a weekly magazine that focuses on world news, business, and politics. The magazine, based in London, is dense with information and can be tough to wade through. The publishers target an upper-class demographic, and it shows in their ads for the magazine. A recent ad had a tag line which read, “It’s lonely at the top, but at least there’s something to read.” The Economist is the sort of magazine pretentious people like to be seen reading.

Naturally, I have a subscription.

econcover.jpgAs I was wading through this week’s issue, I realized that whoever writes the headlines (the copy editor, I think) has an interesting sense of humor and a penchant for puns and cultural references. Some of the headlines are better than others. I went through the stack of unread issues that’s been piling up in the living room and picked out some of the best and the worst headline puns and references from recent weeks. Whether you think they are the best or the worst probably depends on whether you like puns. Here are some examples:

Article topic: What conservatives get, and do not get, about foreign aid.
Headline: Right to bear alms

Article topic: Former CIA Director George Tenet’s new book has some factual errors but is still worth reading.
Headline: George’s tenets

Article topic:Two big meat producers agree to merge.
Headline:A steak in the market

Photograph: A polar bear stands on a piece of ice surrounded by water. The article is about global warming.
Caption: It’s getting unbearable

Article topic: Scrubbing carbon from coal-fired power stations is possible but pricey.
Headline: Dirty king coal

(I’m not sure if that’s supposed to be a play on Nat King Cole or Old King Cole)

Article topic: Businesses are engaging in war game style simulations to gain new perspective on complex problems.
Headline: Shall we play a game?

Article topic: The cost of making cell phone calls overseas.
Headline: When in roam

Article topic: Californians are leaving the state, filling its neighbor states with former Californians.
Headline: Dreams of Californication

Article topic: Ecuador has a new President, Rafael Correa
Headline: Magical mystery tour

(Seriously, I have no idea what this headline is supposed to mean. I read the whole article and still can’t figure it out. Correa isn’t touring anywhere. He’s not listening to the Beatles. Why the reference? I don’t get it.)

Article topic: Rio de Janeiro’s economy isn’t doing so well.
Headline: Blame it on Rio

Article topic: The popularity of the Russian royal family
Headline: Tsarstruck

Article topic: The president’s policies on global warming
Headline: Emissionary positions

Article topic: Scientist Craig Venter takes on yet another big project
Photo caption: Craig’s list gets longer and longer

May 9, 2007

Murmur at the poetry slam.

Um, hi. Is this thing on? Okay, um. So the name of my poem is “Murmur” and it was inspired by something called “reduplication.” That’s when you have a word that’s made of a repeated syllable or word. Like “Bonbon” or “Couscous.” Okay, so um… So I’m just going to read it now. *ahem*

Murmur.

Zsa zsa slapped a cop
who pulled her over in La-La land.
She left a booboo on his face
From all the bling-bling on her hand.

Dance the cha cha
Or the can can
Shake your pom pom
To Duran Duran

Bora Bora is an island
Walla Walla’s in the US.
The UN’s Boutros Boutros-Ghali
used to live near the Suez.

When you say night-night to your baby
there’s a fifty-fifty chance
That she may have gone wee-wee
Or made a doo-doo in her pants.

Mahi Mahi is a fish.
Add some tartar, it wouldn’t hurt.
Couscous makes a great side dish.
Have a bonbon for dessert.

Lulu wore a muumuu
cocoa-colored like her friend’s.
Fifi said it’s too matchy-matchy
But they’re buddy-buddy ‘til the end.

The Mamas and the Papas
Made “Monday Monday” a #1 hit.
Hindsight being 20/20,
Maybe the band shouldn’t have quit.

Mork said “Nanu Nanu.”
Luke rode on a taun-taun’s back.
Ralphie wants a BB gun,
and Mimi’s makeup’s out of whack.

“Knock knock” began the joke.
Lulu asked, “Who’s there?”
But the rim-shot came too early
on the tom tom and the snare.

Sirhan Sirhan shot RFK
It was a dum-dum move, that dork.
They would have sent him to Sing-sing
If he had done it near New York, New York.

“Ha ha” said Jerry Seinfeld
watching the “Yadda yadda” show.
Tsk tsk! Laughing at your own show’s jokes
is a TV writer no-no.

The dada artist drew a yo-yo
Being played with by a tsetse fly
Who was standing on a putt-putt course.
Nobody understood why.

The dodo birds have gone extinct.
Tut tut, there are no more living.
“Gobble gobble” says the turkey.
“Have a vegetarian din-din this Thanksgiving.”

Peter Pan was a goody goody
who lived in Never Never Land.
But now he’s on the wah-wah pedal
playing in a hard rock band.

It’s the same old same old with these rhymes.
And so it’s almost time to say bye-bye.
I’m running out of things to write. Um…
A sailor says “Aye aye.”

Choo choo goes the train.
Vroom-vroom goes the Corvette.
Oh no, this is my worst rhyme of all.
Now they’ll never link to me from boingboing.net.

April 27, 2007

Idea: Uncensor the Internet with Greasemonkey

Uncensor the InternetThere’s an article on-line from Money Magazine called “50 Bulls**t Jobs.” That’s right. Bulls**t. With those two asterisks in there. Come on. We know what word they mean. So why not just say it? If they think we’re adult enough to be reminded of the word, why don’t they think we’re adult enough to see the actual word? (The article is based on a book by the same name, but without the asterisks)

Oh, I know. It’s the kids. They might be reading. Sh*t. I didn’t f*cking think of that. It would be terrible if they would see the word “Bulls**t” in print, but it’s okay for them to see it with the asterisks, right? They’ll have no idea what that means. And I’m sure they have no idea what “the F word” is, so let’s just keep calling it that.

But what about us adults who can decide for ourselves whether we want to see foul language or not? Is there a way for us to avoid all this f****ng unnecessary self-censorship littering the internet?

There is now. I’ve created the “Uncensor the Internet” script for Greasemonkey (a Firefox plug-in that lets you add all sorts of useful functionality to your web browser, available here). If you’re running Firefox with the Greasemonkey plug-in, just install this script, and see all the foul language that people are pretending they don’t use.

It’s also available as a standalone plug-in for those of you who aren’t running Greasemonkey. Right-click on the link to save it to your desktop, and then drag it into your browser window.

To see an example of the script in action, reload this page after you’ve installed it.

Previously: The CNN Fortune Cookie Greasemonkey script. It automatically adds the phrase “in bed” to the end of CNN.com headlines.

Update: I’ve fixed the script so it knows the difference between “a whole” and “a**hole,” and it knows the difference between “batch,” “botch,” “butch,” and “b*tch.”

February 20, 2007

George Bush and Jack Bauer

The current issue of the New Yorker magazine has an interesting article about Joel Surnow, the man behind the TV show “24” and how his personal politics are closely aligned with those of the Bush administration in ways that may manifest themselves on the show.

With that in mind, I found a similarity between George W. Bush and Jack Bauer that isn’t mentioned in the article. I put together a little video to demonstrate:



November 14, 2006

Idea: Use “apparent” when it’s not simply “alleged.”

In America, a person is considered innocent by the law until he is proven guilty. When the media cover a case where someone has been accused of a crime but not convicted, they follow the same guideline. And they should. If the news calls someone an arsonist, for example, but he is later determined to be innocent, the news could get in trouble for defamation or slander. So the word “alleged” is used.

Dictionary definition of alleged: “Asserted without proof or before proving.”

That’s great. The media shouldn’t go around convicting people before they’ve had their day in court. But what if there is proof, but the legal process hasn’t yet taken its course? What if the suspect was caught red-handed? Sure, there might be circumstances not yet known that would shine a completely different light on the situation. But when there is known evidence, maybe “alleged” isn’t the right word. I propose “apparent.”

Apparent vs AllegedDictionary definition of apparent: “manifest as true on the basis of evidence that may or may not be factually valid.”

Let’s look at some stories in the news. In Orange County, Florida police have arrested a man for running an “alleged pot-growing operation.” News footage shows a dozen or so large marijuana plants found in his home. Now, sure, I suppose it could turn out that they’re plastic plants and nobody realized it. Or that someone else put them there to frame him. But given the evidence on hand, I think it’s weak to call this simply an alleged pot-growing operation. It looks like an apparent pot-growing operation to me. This acknowledges that the evidence still may be shown to be invalid, but it calls the situation what it actually is.

In Elmira, New York, an “alleged bank robber” is on the loose. A man approached two people making a deposit at an ATM, pushed them to the ground, and took their money. And he hasn’t been caught. Sure, it’s possible the victims made the whole thing up (the article doesn’t say whether or not the ATM’s camera caught all the action). But it seems to me that there is an apparent bank robber on the loose.

[Note: This paragraph not for the squeamish] And in Hong Kong, tragedy struck a woman who had previously reported domestic violence. This time, she didn’t survive. According to reports, she called emergency services, screaming that there had been a murder, and then she got cut off. Police arrived in her home to find her and two others hacked to death. The article headline calls this an “alleged murder.” Surely it’s safe to call it an “apparent murder,” isn’t it?

I understand the need to err on the side of caution. But the word “alleged” has an actual meaning. It’s not just a catch-all word to keep you out of trouble. There is another word that is just as cautious, and is often more appropriate. Apparently, not everyone sees it that way.

November 12, 2006

What about Southbund?

Maybe the next time subway fares go up, the MTA can finally afford that spell-check software.

Northbund

Detail of a sign spotted on an N train platform.

August 28, 2006

Thumbing through the dictionary

I recently noticed how many body parts have made the leap from noun to verb. Here are a few things you can do with your body parts as verbs:

Body PartsShoulder the burden.
Face the music.
Arm yourselves!
Foot the bill.
Stomach an awful movie.
Finger the suspect.
Elbow a pushy jerk on the subway.
Neck with your girlfriend.
Tongue her if she’ll let you.
Bone her once your parents go to sleep.
Mouth along with the music.
Head out of here.
Skin a cat.
Scalp the cat’s owner.
Back out on your commitment.
Eyeball the hot girl at the club.
Hand over your cash.
Knee a mugger in the nuts.
Thumb your nose at the President.
Heart New York.
Butt out.

July 24, 2006

Big Boggle box bears best board

Boggle BoxI’m really into Boggle these days. And I don’t mean that wussy 4x4 Boggle. No, I’m talkin’ about 5x5 Big Boggle. I know there are several on-line versions available, but nothing beats the fun of playing real people face-to-face, and the shake-shake sound of the cubes in the Boggle board. So I’ve been playing the real world game, and that’s when I noticed the Big Boggle game in progress on the Big Boggle box.

I think that must be the best Big Boggle tray ever. How carefully did they have to plan it? It’s hard to believe such a great tray is even possible by chance alone. There must be tons of great words on that tray. Take a look and see how many you can find. Remember: This isn’t the wussy edition, so to make things extra tough we’re not only disallowing 3 letter words, but 4 letter words as well.

So how many 5-letter or longer words can you find? For an added challenge, limit yourself to just 3 minutes.

I’ll start things off: PREDATING, STEAMERS, BEIGNETS…

Big Boggle box detail

And no fair using a computer program to figure it out. Just use your brain.

May 31, 2006

Idea: Lexidiem, the word of the day.

Why isn’t there a word that means “Word of the day?” Well now there is.

Lexidiem. n. sing. lek-si’-dee-im. (preferred) lek-si-dee’-im (altern. accepted) 1. Word of the day. [Modern American English, from Greek lexis (word) and Latin diem (day), reflecting the hodgepodge of international roots that make up Modern American English words].

Example 1: “Lexidiem will probably be this blog’s only lexidiem.”
Example 2: “Dictionary.com features a lexidiem section.”
Example 3: “Webster’s Dictionary on-line has a lexidiem section, too.”

This cliché is dead. Long live this cliché!

Things that are proclaimed dead yet hailed to be long living:

DevoThe bookThe internetDECThe DesignerEconomicsJavaEmailEminent DomainThe Human Rights CouncilLayoutClint the chimpanzeeGroksterEnvironmentalismTax reformTelevisionThe AssessorThe peace processThe wolfYahoo!PageRankThe kioskMicrosoft BobRobin HoodCamper Van BeethovenInternet radioRomanticismFirefox HelpWikipediaDVDPGPMicrosoftAllofMP3DocumentaryThe King

March 31, 2006

Idea: “Less is.”

The phrase “Less is more” has become ubiquitous enough that, in keeping with the spirit of the expression, I think it should be shortened to simply, “Less is.”

March 24, 2006

Lost in translation

I’ve finally had time to watch the most recent episode of “Lost.” I was shocked to see this in a subtitled scene:

Lost error

“You’re husband… he works for your father.”

Um… I know that the writers sneak all sorts of subtle clues about the show into the dialogue, the scenery, and elsewhere, but I assume this one was a legitimate mistake.