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 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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Etruscan Tablet Found

Seventy letters and punctuation marks make this find one of the longest surviving examples of the Etruscan language. Little is known about the language, and every single find has the potential to vastly increase our knowledge about the language, the Etruscan people, and their culture. This particular find is not a gravestone, which makes it especially valuable since most of the other examples of the language that we have are from graves; it has the possibility of providing evidence about things other than the dead.

Etruscan is not related to any living language, or so most historical linguists believe.

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Iffy Gifs

One of the hot trends in academia is digital humanities. Like many trending topics it is ill defined, but it generally encompasses the study of “texts” in our digital age, as well as the use of digital tools to interrogate more traditional print and manuscript texts. Mark Liberman over at Language Log highlights one such text, a press release from the US House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, which uses animated gifs to express its points. A quote from the release:

“House Republicans have introduced a bill that prevents the President from unilaterally shutting down the enforcement of our immigration laws. It does so by allowing state and local governments to enforce federal immigration law.

Using animated gifs to augment prose text is hardly new, but their use in a press release, especially a release from a government body, is highly unusual. I suppose such use of new media is inevitable, but one must question the wisdom of such use. The gifs certainly convey the conservative outrage at the alleged acts of the Obama administration, but their use also transforms the medium of press release from pronouncement from an august body worthy of journalistic coverage to that of a Facebook post by your crazy cousin Walter. It’s not just what you say, but how you say it that is important.

Liberman’s discussion of the gifs in the release also uses a word that is new to me when he writes, “seriously, this press release was no doubt put together by a couple of sub-millennial staffers.” Sub-millennial refers to those born after the year 2000. While I get his point, I seriously doubt that the committee actually employs teenagers on its staff. It’s more like the staffers were acting like sub-millennials. Or maybe Liberman is using the word to mean those born before the millennial generation, in other words, older people trying desperately to be hip and to rap with the youth today.

Anyhoo, I’ll leave you with this philosophical meditation on the new medium:

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