We are in a bit of a jam re: preserving languages

“It’s hard to use a word like preserve with a language… It’s not like putting jelly in a jar. A language is used. Language is consciousness. Everybody wants to speak English, but those lullabies that allow you to go to sleep at night and dream — that’s what we’re talking about.”

Robert Holman, who teaches at Columbia and New York Universities and is working with Professor Kaufman on the Endangered Language Alliance.

From Listening to (and Saving) the World’s Languages, nytimes.com.

Languages are lovely. As is jelly.

…But only if we’re actually talking about jam. Antipodean jelly (American jello) is not so nice. Skins and bones and all that. Although, the word jelly is still very nice…

General admits bullets don’t solve everything

“Some problems in the world
are not bullet-izable”

— Brig.Gen. H. R. McMaster,
We Have Met The Enemy and He Is Powerpoint, nytimes.com

Does the General realise that his anti-PowerPoint quip is also a marvellously ironic anti-war slogan?

PS. No, “bullet-izable” is NOT a word.

PPS. The PowerPoint slide in question is actually rather pretty (if you ignore the content).

{ click for detail/zoom }

Bowie (n.): or “Why I Have Accepted the Macquarie as My Day-to-Day Dictionary”


“Bowie: David (David Robert Jones), born 1947, British pop singer and composer, an important influence in experimental rock music.”


I’m a tiny bit of an Oxford English Dictionary snob. If I had unlimited access to it (my university student online subscription only has the tiniest whisper of life in it) I would refer to nothing else. I love it so much I have read multiple books ABOUT the OED [The Meaning of Everything, The Surgeon of Crowthorne, Reading the OED…] and have a whole lot of blogging love for the OED Word of the Day email.

Failing that, I defer to (gasp) Wiktionary, as even the most cursory glance through Proof (v.) will reveal.

But I have suddenly find myself consulting an actual tome-of-a-dictionary several times a day, and the one that happens to be close at hand is the Macquarie. I was reticent to accept its authority (we Australians are best known for butchering the English language, not documenting it)… until today, when I stumbled upon the aforeblogged entry:

“Bowie: David (David Robert Jones), born 1947, British pop singer and composer, an important influence in experimental rock music.”

Macquarie Dictionary, if you are going to have an entry on David Bowie, I defer to your most tasteful authority.

[The awesome photo wasn’t in the dictionary. It’s from Hi-ReS! feed. Read the (quite unsurprising) story of Bowie’s mugshot at The Smoking Gun.]

Em dashes and En dashes: A breadth of difference

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An em dash (—) can be used for almost anything: instead of a colon (such as the preceding), to replace parentheses (such as the preceding, and current), or just to represent a sudden change of direction in logic*.

An en dash (–) is somewhat more limited in its utility. Limited to two uses, in fact: firstly, as shorthand for “from” and “to”, à la 9am–5pm; and secondly, to hyphenate two words where one is actually part of another word pairing. As in “post–afternoon tea“, or”anti–Tony Abbott“.

On the other hand, ordinary single pairings like “long, dark tea-time” and “anti-troglodyte” (respectively) require nothing wider than a hyphen.

Based on Mental Floss (where knowledge junkies get their fix). ]

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{ via ilovetypography }

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So the next time someone tries to tell you there’s no difference between an em dash and an en dash, might I suggest you draw their attention to the difference between forMication and forNication?

And if they STILL insist that the difference doesn’t matter, why not offer to release a bucket of crawling, gnashing ants in their general direction.

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* But not all at once. Consider the absurdity of the following:

“Em dashes can be used for almost anything — instead of a colon — such as the preceding — to replace parentheses — such as the preceding, and current — or just to represent a sudden change of direction in logic.”

… THAT doesn’t work at all.