Elements of Spook Style

The terrible writing and design of spook memos and Powerpoint slides have come to the fore since June 2013. However, that doesn't mean that there's not some pretty good style guides available for America's brave spooks. USA USA USA.

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The rules underpinning Porky Pig's stutter

Looney Toons voice actor Bob Bergen explains the logic underlying Porky Pig's stutter, which is surprisingly regular.

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Finnish is easy


You thought learning German was hard? Try Finnish. English: Dog. Finnish: Koira, koiran, koiraa, koiran again, koirassa, koirasta, koiraan, koiralla, koiralta, koiralle, koirana, koiraksi, koiratta, koirineen, koirin...

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21st century vocab: "Card clash"


It's what happens when you wave your bag at an RFID reader while you get on the tube and the turnstyle charges your ride the wrong card:

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Vancouver school-board adds genderless pronoun

Xe, xem, xyr are the new preferred pronouns for transgendered students in the Vancouver school system. Although the National Post is skeptical that this attempt to add a nongendered pronoun to English is doomed -- based largely on the fact that every other attempt has failed abominably -- the VSB's manager of social responsibility and diversity reminds us that not so long ago, no one said "firefighter" while today, "fireman" fairly clangs on the ear.

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John Oliver to FCC Chairman: prove you aren't a dingo!

When John Oliver smote the FCC over its pro-cable-company-fuckery policy, he compared hiring Tom Wheeler away from his job as top cable lobbyist to run the FCC to hiring a dingo to babysit your kids. Wheeler responded by assuring the American public that he was not a dingo (because metaphor). In his latest segment on the matter, Oliver challenged Wheeler to prove it.

FBI's 83-page glossary of leetspeak

Muckrock filed a FOI request for the FBI's list of Twitter slang and "leetspeak" and got back an insane, 83-page glossary of terms that the Feebs use to spy on the kids (think "AYFKMWTS") (via Sean Bonner)

How animals talk in foreign parts


Here's "the world's biggest" list of how animal noises are written in the world's languages, from bees to woodcocks, from Danish to Urdu. Pigs are especially great: "øf-øf; knor knor; oink; nöff; groin groin; grunz; röf-röf (pron: reuf-reuf); oink; boo boo; hrgu-hrgu ; oink; oinc; nöff-nöff."

Animal Sounds (via Dan Hon)

Secret service developing a sarcasm detector. Oh great.


The Department of Homeland Security has put out a request for proposals for a Computer Based Annual Social Media Analytics Subscription that can detect sarcasm (and run on Internet Explorer 8) (this is not sarcasm). This will surely end well.

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ARST ARSW (Star Wars, re-edited into alphabetical order)

Tom Murphy sorted the whole script of Star Wars alphabetically, located the timecode for each spoken word in the film (using the Han Shot first print), and edited the film into alphabetical order. I don't know about you, but I think Kenobi #8 was definitely the best.

Fun facts:
* The word "lightsaber" only appears once in this film.
* There are 43m5s of spoken English, 81m39s of other.
* The most common word is "the", of course, said 368 times.
* The word with most screen time is "you", at 52.56 seconds.
* There are 1695 different words, and 11684 total words.
* The longest words are "responsibility," "malfunctioning", "worshipfulness", and "identification", all 14 letters.

I labeled the words manually (!) using some software I wrote specifically for the purpose.

This is the Special Edition to troll Han-shot-first purists. Everyone knows the orig is the most legit.

ARST ARSW: Star Wars sorted alphabetically (Thanks, Cromis!)

Crowdfunding English translations of public-domain German science fiction


Bradley Hall writes, "I am trying to get funding via Indiegogo so that I can spend more time translating old public domain German sci-fi books. So far I have translated Robert Heymann's 'Der Rote Komet' (The Red Comet) and am currently working on Bernhard Kellerman's 'Der Tunnel' (The Tunnel). Neither of these books have been translated to English before."

English sf is greatly impoverished by the lack of translations from other languages. You meet German sf fans who're conversant with English, Danish, Swedish, Italian and French authors through translation. We get by on a little Lem and Strugatsky.

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Distribution of letters in parts of English words


Prooffreader graphed the distribution of letters towards the beginning, middle and end of English words, using a variety of corpora, finding both some obvious truths and some surprising ones. As soon as I saw this, I began to think of the ways that you could use it to design word games -- everything from improved Boggle dice to automated Hangman strategies to altogether new games.

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You should try the 1913 Webster's, seriously


James Somers thinks you should switch to the Websters 1913 dictionary, and he cites John McPhee's composition method of looking up synonyms for problematic words as the key to his peerless prose style. Somers makes a great case for the romance of historical dictionaries, but for my money (literally -- I spent a fortune on this one), the hands-down best reference for synonyms and historical language reference is the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary, whose magnificence cannot be overstated.

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Aussie politician calls rival a "c*nt" in Parliament, gets away with it

Juha writes, "Christopher Pyne, education minister for the ruling right-wing Coalition in Australia, calls the leader of the centre-left Labor, Bill Shorten, a "cunt." In Parliament. Pyne gets away with it too, as the Speaker doesn't intervene. Further audio here in case Youtube pulls the video."

Turn literary works into patent applications with patent-generator


Patent-generator is a Github-hosted python script that turns literary texts into patent applications, with descriptions of the accompanying diagrams (here's Kapital, AKA "A method and device for comprehending, theoretically, the historical movement"; and here's Heidegger's The Question Concerning Technology, AKA "A device and system for belonging to bringing-forth").

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