Publishing By the Numbers

Fivethirtyeight.com, Nate Silver’s website on polling, data, and statistics, has a podcast called What’s the Point? that recently delved into the use of data by book publishers. It’s a neat discussion about the industry and how publishers make decisions about whether or not to publish a book and how to market it if they do.

Finding Movie Quotations

Ever get a line from a movie stuck in your head but you can’t remember the film it’s from? Or you’ve got a twenty riding on a bar-bet about the accuracy of a TV quote?

Despair no more. The site QuoDB.com has the answers.

The site is a huge database of movie and television scripts, and it will pinpoint down to the second where in the film the quote appears. For instance, I looked up the word multi-pass:

01:09:24 Multi-pass.
The Fifth Element (1997)
01:09:18 - And this is?
01:09:21 - Leeloo Dallas. Multi-pass.
01:09:24 - Multi-pass.
01:09:25 - She knows it’s a multi-pass.
01:09:27 - My wife. We’re newlyweds. Just met.

The site tells me the word appears five other times in the film, and details on those are only a mouse-click away.

Definitely a site worth bookmarking.

[Tip o’ the hat to Languagehat]

[Discuss this post]

Kryptonite in the OED

The latest additions to the OED Online includes an entry for kryptonite. Definition:

In the fictional world of the comic book hero Superman: a substance that renders Superman weak and powerless. Hence in figurative or allusive use: something that can weaken or damage a particular person or thing; an Achilles heel.

And the dictionary includes the following note:

Kryptonite is most commonly depicted as a green mineral that came to earth from Krypton, Superman’s home planet, following its destruction. Other types have appeared in various comic books, films, etc., each having different properties.

Kryptonite first appears on the Superman radio program in 1943. It’s comic book appearance dates from 1949. The earliest figurative use cited by the OED is from 1965.

[Discuss this post]

The Word The Internet Didn’t Know

Not really.

The word parbunkells got a flurry of press coverage starting a few days ago, such as this piece from Popular Mechanics. Artist Julia Weist rented a billboard in Queens to feature the word, claiming that it was a forgotten seventeenth-century word that did not appear on the internet. Gizmodo declared the word to be “dead to the digital world—and to almost every living person.” Weist was trying to make a point about how information is shared over the internet, telling Gizmodo:

The word has also become a shortcut to a portrait of meaning making and content production on the Internet, both human and non-human, in the sense that you can search for it and see spools of information, reaction, conversation, re-context- ualization and response. In that sense it’s all or nothing, and now that word has been used, the more usage the better.

But she chose a bad example to make her point, and the mainstream media covering the story got a lot wrong. 

Read the rest of the article...

Teaching Registers

The Economist’s Prospero blog has a post on the necessity of teaching different registers of speech. It uses Portuguese as an example, which I can’t speak to, not knowing the language, but the fundamental point the article makes is a good one: “Instead of a rigid right-wrong approach, with the written form always being taught as right, it would be better to teach the idea of register: that certain forms are used in casual speech, other forms in formal speech, others still in writing.”

It’s a good point. Students are smart, and they instinctively know how to switch registers—they do it all the time in their own speech. The only thing that needs to be done is make them aware that they do it. It’s not a difficult concept.

[Discuss this post]

Powered by ExpressionEngine
Copyright 1997-2015, by David Wilton