Woody Words

This classic popped up on my Facebook feed today:

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Wrong.

Journalists love to write articles on language. Not only, since they make their livings with words, do they have a professional interest in the topic, but language is a popular topic. People, at least those who read newspapers, love to read about it. The problem is that journalists often get it completely wrong.

A case in point is an article by Dan Bilefsky that appeared on the front page of the New York Times on 9 June about how use of the period, that staid and boring punctuation mark, is changing. In some forms of discourse, the period does not simply mark the end of a sentence, it conveys urgency or emotion. He gets the facts right, but Bilefsky utterly miscategorizes what is happening, framing the period as “going out of style” and “being felled.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

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How Do You Solve a Problem Like Fututiones?

The Times Literary Supplement discusses how translating Catullus is fucking hard.

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Cunk on Shakespeare

Philomena Cunk examines the life and work of William Shakespeare:

Cunk, played by comedian Diane Morgan, has this to say about Richard III:

Shakespeare wrote loads of plays about royals, known as his history plays. It was his way of pleasing the king and queen by doing stuff about their families, a bit like when your mum buys the local paper because your brother’s court appearance is in it. Perhaps Shakespeare’s best history play is Richard Three, which is about this sort of elephant man king. He’d be done in computers now by Andy Serkis covered in balls, but in the original he was just a man with a pillow up his jumper. It’s quite modern because it’s a lead part for a disabled actor, provided they don’t mind being depicted as the most evil man ever. ["I am determined to prove a villain."] Richard Three is actually based on the real King Richard of Third, who was in the Wars of the Roses. ["A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse."] At the end he loses his horse and ends up wandering round a car park looking for it, where he eventually dies, because in those days you couldn’t find your horse just by beeping your keys at it and making its arse light up. It’s quite moving and human because we’ve all worried that we might die in a car park, if we like lose the ticket and can’t get the barrier up and just die in there. Shakespeare makes you think about those things.

The entire half-hour program is here:

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Internet/Web vs. internet/web

I like fivethirtyeight.com. Nate Silver and his crew have pioneered a new form of journalism, one based on data rather than punditry, but like anyone else, they get into trouble when they stray outside their wheelhouse. Most recently, a blog post on their website took on the announcement that the Associate Press (AP) has changed their stylebook to use lowercase letters when writing internet and web. Formerly, the news organization had advocated for Internet and Web. In so doing, they not only demonstrated a misunderstanding of how language works, but they also screwed up their analysis of the data.

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