Sunday, February 15, 2009

A Few Observations, Absolutely Not Random

Quote of the day, from Cricinfo's commentary on the two-and-a-halfth test in Antigua (I can't find the commentator's name on the quick): "Powell has the heart of a lion, but the consistency of undercooked porridge." You probably need to be a cricket fan, or at least from the Commonwealth, to appreciate that it is true; otherwise it would just be another stodgy metaphor in the best tradition of Sid Wadell. By the way, we're doing well for a change. And Viv Richards must be wishing he'd be born a long way away from St John's.

Rant of the day, from Hickory himself: why do educated people imagine that they are experts on applied linguistics? Read this, including the comments, then this reply, also including the comments, then have a look at these people, who make an appearance. (I cannot believe that John Wells would make such stupid remarks, by the way; he must surely have been misquoted). Almost everything that is said is ignorant, stupid and false. An answer to one of the underlying assumptions behind those articles is this passage, taken from the comments, although not original, I think:

7. Olny srmat poelpe can raed tihs.
I cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Amzanig huh? yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt!

GWR, Geneva, Switzerland

I read that as quickly and easily as though it were standard English.

I can't be bothered to explain why most of what is said in those articles and comments is ignorant rubbish, but the idea that unless we all respect some standard of spelling and usage we are all doomed is nonsense, as is the idea that spelling can be magically changed, simplified, opened up or that the authentic role of spelling (and usage) in communication can be the subject of legislation or decree.

Question of the day, from MiniCult: I went to their site intending to laugh at them and quote some self-important mission statement. It is obvious that it is not a serious Ministry, and that its purpose is to spend our money on propaganda, but the website is carefully thought out, and does not reflect the nature of the department itself. It even appears to be worthwhile, until you remember whose money they are spending.

Update: I've found something, though I'm sure I could do better:

"Please note
The contents of these pages are provided as an information guide only. They are not a full and authoritative statement of the law and do not constitute professional or legal advice. Any statements on these pages do not replace, extend, amend or alter in any way the statutory provisions of the Licensing Act 2003 or any subordinate legislation made under it or statutory guidance issued in relation to it.

No responsibility is accepted by the Secretary of State for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport or the Department for Culture, Media and Sport for any errors, omissions or misleading statements on these pages."

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