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Regrettably, the Wikipedia entry for "Citation needed" ("a common editorial remark on Wikipedia, which has become used to refer to Wikipedia in wider popular culture") doesn't include any actual assertions tagged with .
On July 4, 2007, the webcomic xkcd published a comic which depicted a protestor holding up a "citation needed" sign during a political speech.
In late 2010, banners with the template appeared at the somewhat tongue-in-cheek Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear, and in February 2011, at a more serious demonstration in Berlin against German defence minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, who had been embroiled in a scandal after it was discovered he had plagiarised portions of his doctoral thesis.
The New York Times has commented on the propensity of some "stickler editors" for adding the template to unattributed facts, and has used the phrase in an online headline.
A brief list of misused English terminology in EU publications [PDF] is a fascinating look at the emerging dialect of English that is emerging out of the EU bureaucracy, in which odd bureaucratic language has to be translated from and to many languages. It's a good window into concepts that are common in one nation's bureaucratic tradition, but not others':
Explanation: the most common meaning of ‘dispose of’ is ‘to get rid of’ or ‘to throw away’; it never means ‘to have’, ‘to possess’ or ‘to have in one’s possession’. Thus, the sentence ‘The managing authority disposes of the data regarding participants.’ does not mean that it has them available; on the contrary, it means that it throws them away or deletes them. Similarly, the sentence below does not mean: ‘the Commission might not have independent sources of information’, it means that the Commission is not permitted to discard the sources that it has.
Example: ‘The Commission may not be able to assess the reliability of the data provided by Member States and may not dispose of independent information sources (see paragraph 39)46.’
As Bruce Sterling says, "I would not expect 'Brussels English' to get any closer to grammatically correct British English; on the contrary I would expect it in future to drift into areas of machine translation jargon, since that’s a lot cheaper than hiring human translators who are as skilled as the author of this document."
"Slash" has emerged as a new conjunction, which is a rarity in slang. I love the fact that people spell out "slash" and then hyphenate it, and find it hard to believe that they're not doing this for the sheer delightful absurdity of it all:
...But for at least a good number of students, the conjunctive use of slash has extended to link a second related thought or clause to the first with a meaning that is often not quite “and” or “and/or” or “as well as.” It means something more like “following up.” Here are some real examples from students:
7. I really love that hot dog place on Liberty Street. Slash can we go there tomorrow?
8. Has anyone seen my moccasins anywhere? Slash were they given to someone to wear home ever?
9. I’ll let you know though. Slash I don’t know when I’m going to be home tonight
10. so what’ve you been up to? slash should we be skyping?
11. finishing them right now. slash if i don’t finish them now they’ll be done in first hour tomorrow
The student who searched her Facebook chat records found instances of this use of slash as far back as 2010. (When I shared a draft of this post with the students in the class to make sure I have my facts straight, several noted that in examples like (7) and (9), they would be more likely to use a comma in between the clauses and a lower-case “slash.”)
The innovative uses of slash don’t stop there either: some students are also using slash to introduce an afterthought that is also a topic shift, captured in this sample text from a student:
12. JUST SAW ALEX! Slash I just chubbed on oatmeal raisin cookies at north quad and i miss you
Slash: Not Just a Punctuation Mark Anymore [Anne Curzan/Chronicle of Higher Education]
(via Making Light)
My latest Guardian column is "Trademarks: the good, the bad and the ugly," and it looks at why trademark, at its best, does something vital -- but how trademark can be abused to steal common words from our language and turn them into a twisted kind of pseudo-property.
Trademark lawyers have convinced their clients that they must pay to send a threatening notice to everyone who uses a trademark without permission, even where there is no chance of confusion. They send letters by the lorryload to journalists, website operators, signmakers, schools, dictionary publishers – anyone who might use their marks in a way that weakens the association in the public mind. But weakening an association is not illegal, despite the expansion of doctrines such as "dilution" and "naked licensing."
When called out on policing our language, trademark holders and their lawyers usually shrug their shoulders and say, "Nothing to do with us. The law requires us to threaten you, or we lose our association, and thus our mark." This is a very perverse way of understanding trademark.
The law is there to protect the public interest, and the public interest isn't undermined by the strength or weakness of an association with a specific word or mark with a specific company. The public interest extends to preventing fraud, and trademark uses the motivation of protecting profits to incentivise firms to uphold the public interest.
A "Snowball" is a poem "in which each line is a single word, and each successive word is one letter longer." Nossidge built an automated Snowball generator that uses Markov Chains, pulling text from Project Gutenberg. It's written in C++, with code on GitHub. The results are rather beautiful poems (these ones are "mostly Dickens"):
Canada Post -- a failing, state-owned Crown Corporation -- not only claims a copyright on the database of postal codes (a collection of facts, and not the sort of thing that usually attracts copyright). They also claim a trademark on the words "postal code," and have sent legal threats to websites that use the words factually, to describe actual postal codes.
Canada Post disagrees. The crown corporation now argues that the very term “postal code” is subject to a trademark owned by Canada Post. Anyone using the term “postal code,” therefore, does so at their own risk.
“Canada Post has adopted and used Canadian Official Mark POSTAL CODE,” the statement of claim reads. “The Defendants have passed off their wares and services as and for those of Canada Post contrary to section 7(c) of the Trade-marks Act.”
What this means is Canada Post is changing direction in their lawsuit against Geolytica.
Geolytica has argued since the lawsuit began that they did not copy the Canada Post postal code database, but instead built their own based on the feedback of their own users. They crowd-sourced it. This makes Canada Post’s original copyright claim trickier, even if you set aside the facts vs. intellectual property argument.
In 2008, Caitlin GD Hopkins collected 101 euphemisms for "died" from early American epitaphs. The epitaphs came from tombstones pre-1825, to qualify, the euphemism had to appear in the main text of the tombstone ("Here lies Fred; born 1801, laid himself to rest 1824"), not in the verse below it ("He was a nice guy"). It's quite a list:
Part 1: Died
Part 2: Departed This Life
Part 3: Deceased
Part 4: Entred Apon an Eternal Sabbath of Rest
Part 5: Fell a Victim to an Untimely Disease
Part 6: Departed This Transitory Life
Part 7: Killed by the Fall of a Tree
Part 8: Left Us
Part 9: Obit
Part 10: Slain by the Enemy
Part 11: Departed This Stage of Existence
Part 12: Went Rejoycing Out of This World
Part 13: Submiting Her Self to ye Will of God
Part 14: Fell Asleep
Part 15: Changed a Fleeting World for an Immortal Rest
Part 16: Fell Asleep in the Cradle of Death
Part 17: Fell Aslep in Jesus
Part 18: Was Still Born
Part 19: Innocently Retired
Part 20: Expired
Part 21: Perished in a Storm
Part 22: Departed from This in Hope of a Better Life
Part 23: Summoned to Appear Before His Judge
Part 24: Liv'd About 2 Hours
Part 25: Rose Upon the Horizon of Perfect Endless Day
All 101 of them are linked to photos of the headstones in the actual post:
Today, on Twitter, I learned something new and interesting from environmental reporter Paul Voosen. Over the years, I've run into reports (like this one from the Union of Concerned Scientists) showing that genetically modified crops — i.e. Roundup Ready corn and soybeans, which is really the stuff we're talking about most of the time in these situations — don't increase intrinsic yields of those crops. But I've also seen decent-looking data that seemed to suggest exactly the opposite. So what gives?
Turns out, this is largely an issue of terminology.
Here's Death and Taxes's collection of 18 obsolete words that would be handy (or at least funny) to use today, compiled by Carmel Lobello from a book called The Word Museum and a blog called Obsolete Word of the Day. Some of my favorites:
Snoutfair: A person with a handsome countenance — “The Word Museum: The Most Remarkable English Words Ever Forgotten” by Jeffrey Kacirk
Groak: To silently watch someone while they are eating, hoping to be invited to join them – www.ObsoleteWord.Blogspot.com
Spermologer: A picker-up of trivia, of current news, a gossip monger, what we would today call a columnist — “The Word Museum: The Most Remarkable English Words Ever Forgotten” by Jeffrey Kacirk
Jirble: To pour out (a liquid) with an unsteady hand: as, he jirbles out a dram — www.Wordnik.com
The Conservative council in Mid-Devon, England has mooted a proposal to remove apostrophes from street signs, claiming they cause "potential confusion." I live on a street in East London with an on-again/off-again apostrophe whose presence depends on which database you're using. But given that all serious UK navigation and geocoding is done by postcode, this just seems like a bit of silliness.
The council communications manager Andrew Lacey said: "Our proposed policy on street naming and numbering covers a whole host of practical issues, many of which are aimed at reducing potential confusion over street names.
"Although there is no national guidance that stops apostrophes being used, for many years the convention we have followed here is for new street names not to be given apostrophes.
"In fact, there are currently only three official street names in Mid Devon which include them: Beck's Square and Blundell's Avenue, both in Tiverton, and St George's Well in Cullompton – all named many, many years ago. No final decision has yet been made and the proposed policy will be discussed at cabinet."
The science fiction legend Damon Knight used to semi-seriously advocate for the abolition of the apostrophe altogether. I remember thinking he had a point at the time.
Council considers ban on apostrophes in street signs [Press Association]
John Camden Hotten's The Slang Dictionary: Etymological, Historical and Anecdotal was published in 1874, and is available in Project Gutenberg's archive. It's a nice piece of work, as this post on EbookFriendly illustrates, with choice definitions from a bygone era for "Pin," "Twitter" and more.
pin: “to put in the pin,” to refrain from drinking. From the ancient peg tankard, which was furnished with a row of pins, or pegs, to regulate the amount which each person was to drink. Drunken people are often requested to “put in the pin,” from some remote connexion between their unsteadiness and that of a carriage wheel which has lost its linch-pin. The popular cry, “put in the pin,” can have no connexion with the drinking pin or peg now, whatever it may originally have had. A merry pin, a roysterer
twitter: ”all in a twitter”, in a fright or fidgety state
poll: a female of unsteady character; “polled up,” means living with a woman in a state of unmarried impropriety. Also, if a costermonger sees one of his friends walking with a strange woman, he will say to him on the earliest opportunity, “I saw yer when yer was polled up”
cool: to look