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"):
Snowball (also called a Chaterism)
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.
Canada Post says they hold trademark on the words ‘postal code’
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:
101 Ways to Say "Died"
(via Making Light)
Yes, it's useful for communicating within your group, but as soon as you step outside that circle jargon becomes a problem. That's true even for scientists trying to communicate between disciplines and sub-disciplines of a field
. At Ars Technica, John Timmer talks about jargon acronyms that look the same, but mean totally different things depending on what science you do. One of his examples: CTL. If you study flies, this can refer to a specific gene. For people who work with mice, it's a reference to curly tails. For immunologists, it's a type of white blood cell — cytotoxic T lymphocyte. — Maggie
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.
Read the rest
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
18 obsolete words, which never should have gone out of style
Do you understand the difference between a "hypothesis" and a "theory"? Physics professor Rhett Alain thinks you probably don't. But he says that's not your fault. The words just aren't terribly precise, at least in the public parlance, and they only serve to make discussions about science confusing. He has a modest proposal: Let's replace them both with something that makes sense to the general public. — Maggie
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
The Slang Dictionary from 1874 is hilarious (and you can download it for free)
This morning, while hurrying down the concourse at La Guardia Airport, I tried to dictate a text message to my Nexus 4 while wheeling my suitcase behind me. It got the dictation fine, but appended "kdkdkdkdkdkdkdkd" to the message -- this being its interpretation of the sound of my suitcase wheels on the tiles. — Cory
Barking might just be a reflex for agitated dogs. It might be a side-effect of domestication — i.e., when you select for less-aggressive animals you get ones that tend to bark. Or, it really might have meaning, both for other dogs and for humans. At Scientific American, Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods describe some of the research on dog communication, including studies that show both humans and dogs can tell the difference between barks associated with, say, food, and barks associated with the presence of a threatening stranger. — Maggie
From a 1926 volume of Glamordaze, 10 sarcastic pieces of flapper slang:
The Top 10 most sarcastic Flapper slang words.
1- Umbrella- young man any girl can borrow for the evening.
2- Rock of Ages- any woman over 30 years of age.
3- Face stretcher- old maid who tries to look young.
4- Cellar Smeller- a young man who always turns up where there’s free liquor to be had.
5- Corn Shredder- young man who dances on a girl’s feet.
6- Being Edisoned- getting asked a lot of boring questions.
7- Finale Hopper- a young man who arrives after everything is paid for.
8- Mustard Plaster- unwelcome guy who sticks around.
9- Potato- a young man shy of brains.
10-Rug Hopper- young man who never takes a girl out. A parlor hound.
Top 10 most sarcastic Flapper slang words
I don't want to give away the punchline here, but it's definitely worth 1:40 of your time to get to it. This Australian gentleman placed a classified ad announcing the sale of his house, with the stipulation "No Asians." A news-crew cornered him in front of the house and demanded an explanation, and, well...
Eric Andre offers the Internet-visiting public a compendium of up-for-grabs band names. Band names are the original Twitter: hyper-compressed witticisms meant to leap off a poster wheatpasted to a telephone pole and lodge in the mind forever. Here are some of my favorites from Eric's list:
Jesus and the Christs
Polyamorous Brazilian Atheist
Alien vs Predator vs Brown vs The Board of Education
Mega Nintendo Death Hibachi
Mud Butt Monorail
The Dave Matthews’ Dave Matthews’ Band
Axe Body Spray
9 mm Camera
Eric's Band Names
(Image: poster in Rome, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from davemorris's photostream)
Surprisingly, they're not all long, Germanic compound words (generally a font of useful no-equivalent words):
8. Tartle (Scots)
The nearly onomatopoeic word for that panicky hesitation just before you have to introduce someone whose name you can't quite remember.
9. Koi No Yokan (Japanese)
The sense upon first meeting a person that the two of you are going to fall in love.
10. Mamihlapinatapai (Yaghan language of Tierra del Fuego)
This word captures that special look shared between two people, when both are wishing that the other would do something that they both want, but neither want to do.
Tartle is something I often experience, because I'm really, embarrassingly terrible with names.
14 wonderful words with no English equivalent