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In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Category archive: Language

Thursday November 27 2014

For a few hours, from some time last night until around midday today, instead of getting BrianMicklethwaitDotCom, all you got, if your experience was the same as mine, was this:

Database Error: Unable to connect to your database. Your database appears to be turned off or the database connection settings in your config file are not correct. Please contact your hosting provider if the problem persists.

I couldn’t be telling you this if the above melancholy circumstance had not been corrected.  Deepest thanks to The Guru, for his prompt attention to the matter.

Since I was attempting to post something last night, that means you got nothing yesterday.  Trust me, your suffered far less than I did.  I hope to be making it up today.

("Making it up”.  What a strange expression.  It means: doing a corrective favour.  And it means: inventing it, even perhaps lying about it.  And then there is also what women (and now some men) do to their faces, minus the “it”.  Odd.  Although I do see a connection between meaning two and meaning three, rude though it might be to point such a thing out.  (And why make “up”?  (See also “screw up” and “clean up”.  (So this digressionary paragraph turned out relevant after all.  (This is my record for the most consecutive close-bracket signs.)))))

Saturday November 08 2014

My rule about being a sports fan is be very happy when your teams are winning, but relax when they aren’t.  Enjoy the good stuff.  Let the bad remind you that it’s just games.  I am not, in other words, a “real fan”, the sort of who puts his entire happiness at the mercy of events that are wholly out of his control.

And just now I am happy, because two autumn rugby internationals have just kicked off, Wales v Australia and England v NZ, and in both games the Brit teams have scored early - and frankly very surprising – tries.  7-0 Wales.  5-0 England.  This is the kind of thing you must enjoy while it is happening, without assuming that it will get any better, in fact while assuming that it is pretty much bound to get worse.  Protective pessimism.  Am watching Wales v Oz on the telly.  Highlights of Eng NZ on the telly later.

And Australia score under the posts.  7-7 with the easy kick (yes).  But, according to the BBC:

New Zealand are reeling from England’s blitz start.

Don’t you just love it when the other fellows reel.  Reeling is something only now done with an -ing on the end.  Why is that?

I am giving a talk on Jan 6th at Christian Michel’s about Sport Being A Substitute For War.  Just thought I’d mention that.  I will try to write it down and will thus be able to shove it up here afterwards.

And NZ have now scored.  5-5 with a kick to come.  And Oz have now scored another.  Wales 7 Oz 12 with a kick to come. I must stop.  Three antipodean tries have been scored since I started writing this. It’s only games.

Or is it?  Wales Oz 7-14, but Eng NZ 8-5, to England.  And now Wales have scored in the corner.  Wales 14 Oz 14.  I remember when rugby was played in mud and you were lucky to see a single try in an entire match.  So far there have been six tries in under half an hour.  Make that seven because Oz have just scored again.

Saturday November 01 2014

During a discussion on Radio 3’s Music Matters at lunchtime today, about whether knowledge of classical music is necessary for the enjoyment of classical music, noted baritone singer Sir Thomas Allen mentioned that Luciano Pavarotti could not read music.  During recordings, said Allen, someone used to stand behind Pavarotti and quietly hum his notes for him, to make sure he got them right.

However, when Pavarotti himself was challenged about this, he denied it:

In an interview in 2005 with Jeremy Paxman on the BBC, Pavarotti rejected the allegation that he could not read music, although acknowledging he sometimes had difficulty following orchestral parts.

I’m guessing that what is at stake here is the difference between being able to read music after a fashion, and being able to read it fluently and with utter confidence that one is getting it absolutely right every time.  Sort of like the difference between having to spell out lots of the rather harder words, and just reading.

When I played the flute at school (until I gave it up and just became a classical fan) I had, by the sound of it, even greater difficulty reading music than Pavarotti did.  But even so, this makes me feel much better.

Allen also said that Mirella Freni (a soprano about as noted as Allen himself) was the same.

Wednesday October 29 2014

See number 4 of these mistranslations.  See also, number 2: “RACIST PARK”; number 9: “BAG OF SHIT”; number 16: “Deformity Toilet”; and number 19 (which I have seen before I’m almost sure): “Translate server error”.

Got this via here, of all places, the one he chose being number 6: “Entrance only with Herr Hitler”.

Tuesday October 21 2014

There I was, lying in the bath, listening to Radio 3.  Some music had ended, and I was now being subjected to a programme which I do not usually listen to, called Words and Music.  And I heard the actor Jim Broadbent saying these words, by Michel de Montaigne:

I take the first subject that chance offers.  They are all equally good to me.  And I never plan to develop them completely.  For I do not see the whole of anything.  (Nor do those who promise to show it to us.) Of a hundred members and faces that each thing has, I take one, sometimes only to lick it, sometimes to brush the surface, sometimes to pinch it to the bone.  I give it a stab, not as wide, but as deep as I know how.  And most often, I like to take them from some unaccustomed point of view. Scattering a word here, there another, samples separated from their context, dispersed, without a plan and without a promise, I am not bound to make something of them, or to adhere to them myself, without varying when I please, and giving myself up to doubt and uncertainty, and my ruling quality, which is ignorance.

Sounds like a blogger, doesn’t he?  A blogger, that is to say, like me. Especially where he says “without a promise”.  I keep saying that. Above all there is that “this is what it is and if you don’t like it you know just what you can do about it” vibe that so many bloggers give off.  With Montaigne, we are arriving at that first moment in history when writing and publishing new stuff had become easy.  Not as easy as it is when you blog, but a whole lot easier than it had been.

I transcribed the above quote from Broadbent’s reading of it.  The punctuation is somewhat uncertain, and at one point assertively creative on my part.  I added some brackets, around what is clearly a diversion from his main line of thought to which he immediately returns.  It’s a sideswipe at others and it is then forgotten.

Such is the wonder that is the internet that I had little difficulty in tracking down the quote.  It is near the beginning of Montaigne’s essay entitled “Of Democritus and Heraclitus”, in volume three of his essays.

image

The BBC used a more recent translation, which I much prefer the sound of, it being less antique and long-winded.  And if Montaigne himself was also antique and long-winded, then I still prefer intelligibility to stylistic accuracy.

LATER: More about Montaigne, also emphasising the modern social media angle, here.

Wednesday October 01 2014

Taking the first question first: is it practise or practice?

This is the kind of question that, in the days before the www, used to rattle about inside several million heads for decades on end.  As it so happens, it did so rattle in mine.  But for a decade and more now, such questions could and can be answered, and today I answered this question for myself, by finding my way, very quickly, pretty much as soon as I started trying, to this site.  I’d been meaning to do this for a long time.  Today, I did.  What it says at the other end of that link, assuming I read it right, is that practice is the noun and practise is the verb, as with advice and advise.  I know, you knew that.  I must be an uneducated pillock not to know it.  But, although in many ways not an uneducated pillock, I was for many decades just that, in this particular way.  Besides which, the essence of educatedness is not mere knowledge, it is knowing that one needs to acquire this or that further item of further knowledge, and if far later than is dignified, well so be it.

I’m not saying that this answer is correct.  I’m just saying that from now on, this is the answer I will try to apply whenever the practice/practise dilemma presents itself to me.

Moving on to the question in the brackets above.  Answer: no.  The site where I found this answer (right or wrong) is called “Future Perfect”, and its subtitle is “Improving Written Communications”.  Like, that’s all it would take to make the future perfect.  I do not believe this.  I get it.  Future perfect is also a piece of grammar, and grammar is (along with spelling) one of the things this place is about.  Ho ho.  But, future perfect?

Perfect communication could just mean perfectly expressed abuse.  Remember that fish in Hitchhiker’s Guide, which enabled everyone to communicate perfectly with everyone else, and which started terrible wars, because now everyone could understood everyone else’s insults.  Perfect communication is indeed, maybe, part of the perfect future, but saying perfectly nice things is also an important part of perfection, I would say.  And that’s quite aside from the fact that actual perfection would also be terrible, for other reasons.

Sunday September 14 2014

Here. They may not have intended it to be sarcastic, but that’s how it reads.

Monday August 25 2014

So, what is “Xxxx”?:

image

I already chose this picture as worth showing here, before I spotted that Xxxx was present in both the words.

Taken by me, when out and about yesterday early evening.

Thursday August 21 2014

I’m still suffering from God problems.  God needs a new everything.  New fan, new processor, new graphics card, even some new RAM.  His old body will do, and hopefully all his hard discs can stay where they are, and continue to have all the same stuff on them, but the stuff that enables God to do his mysterious work is all change.  Overheating, The Guru said.  There was much dust inside, which will not surprise anyone who has ever visited my home.

Here is a picture of God’s inner workings, not that it tells me much:

image

Apparently overheating is big deal in computing these days, and there are an amazing number of little systems inside a computer like God which are just there to stop things getting too hot.  The Guru pointed out various little cooling mechanisms, and there were about half a dozen of them.  Not just obvious things like big fans, but small things like strategically placed bits of metal to get ride of the head in some tiny little sub-system.

I recall reading a book about the man who invented the first Supercomputers.  Cray?  It said that Cray computers were actually of a rather conservative design, because that way they wouldn’t go wrong.  The brilliant idea was to combine such a computer with a refrigeration system.  Apparently nobody had thought of that, until Cray did.  But, said Cray, who says you can’t put a computer in a fridge?

By the way, odd that fridge is spelt fridge, but refrigeration is spelt refrigeration, without a d in the middle.  Google it if you don’t believe me.  I only just found this out, from my spell checker and then from googling it myself.

The bad news is that without God I am without email.  I know, this is ridiculous.  I keep meaning to switch from FuckupMail (the system supplied to me by The Guru (who disapproves of Google “on principle")) to Gmail, because you can access Gmail from anywhere.  So what if you have to donate your soul to Google?  What would they do with my soul?  Very little, I am almost sure.

FuckupMail works fine, until you try to access it from another computer.  Then it causes me to call it that.  So, for example, on my recent French trip, I just ignored email and hoped for the best.  But now I have things coming up that need organising, and I can’t wait until the middle of next week for email, so FuckupMail has to migrate to Dawkins.  So, I am currently engaged in doing that.  But every time Dawkins gets to the emails concerning back-ups, which happen every day at three in the morning, he goes on strike for about five minutes and I often have to shut the email system and then open it again, after which it takes another five minutes before it deigns to transfer any more emails, which it eventually does until 3am comes around again.  I have had to stop the email system and start it up again about three hundred times.  “Should take about two hours” said The Guru.  Turned out more like forty, and it still isn’t done.  The only exception was when the emails concerned the fact that the back-up system wasn’t working, which it wasn’t for about one blessed month earlier this summer.  They transferred fine.  I know.  Ridiculous, but I had no idea it would take as long as it did.

Should.  This is a computer technical term meaning, “should but actually won’t”.  Whenever you hear this word coming out of the mouth of a Computer Guy, trouble.  Every time.

It’s only when you don’t have email that you realise how much you depend on it.

This is what Dawkins looks like:

image

Which I include just to tell you, in case you are confused.

This, on the other hand, is the new graphics card, which I include because I like it:

image

It looks like a cross between a helicopter and a bra, both fine inventions.

By the way, please don’t leave any “helpful” comments on this, about what, in your opinion, you think I ought to do about all this, instead of what I am doing.  I already know (a) why I am doing what I am doing, (b) why it is ridiculous but why I’m doing it anyway, and (c) what I intend to do about it all to stop similar absurdities in the future.  If you agree with me about how annoying this is, that’s okay, but if you have any opinions about any of this that are different from mine, keep them to yourself.

Wednesday July 23 2014

Bizarre day today, and am only now shoving whatever I can think of to shove up.

I went trawling through the photo-archives, and came up with this weird selfie shot from 2006:

image

Two cameras I no longer use.  My previous pregnant-out-the-back telly.  Some book about Something For Dummies.

The word didn’t exist, but that didn’t stop me, or stop me from photoing others doing it.

Tuesday June 24 2014

I will go on saying that the tower, as featured in all these photos that I recently photoed, ...:

image imageimage image

... should be called the Spray Can, until everyone is calling it the Spray Can.  Or the Spraycan, that’s optional.

Or until someone comes up with an (even) better name.

But meanwhile, what shall we call the ”Salesforce” Tower?

image

The new name should please the residents but piss off Salesforce, for renaming towers all over the damn place, and make them wish they hadn’t attempted this in London.  Salesfuck.  Something along those lines.  Not good enough, because too profane to be printed in regular newspapers.  Salesfarce?  Failsforce?  Close enough to Salesforce to make the connection.  But insulting.  To Salesforce.  The obvious thing would be to just carry on calling it the Heron Tower, but I don’t think that will punish these Salesfuckers nearly enough.  Their stupid name needs to be dragged audibly through the mud.

In case you are wondering, yes I am still a libertarian.  Capitalism, hurrah!  But the thing is, when you complain about a business doing something really annoying, there’s quite a decent chance they may stop, or at least, if they persist, be commercially punished.  At the very least there is a decent chance you can make whoever did whatever it was squirm a little, and generally be made a bit of a prat of.  When you complain about the government, there is much less chance of any such good stuff happening.  No way will you get, e.g., refund.  Just another bill to clean up whatever the original mess was.

So, complaints against capitalism are rewarded, by capitalism.  Complaints against governments are not rewarded nearly so much, by governments or by anything else.

So guess which, in defiance of all sanity, you get more of.

That’s quite profound, I think.  (This is why I like tangenting.  See below.)

City A.M. is now one of my go-to places first thing, and there I read today:

Transport for London (TfL) will be introducing screens displaying how many people are sitting upstairs and which seats are available, in a trial system to begin in two weeks.

The display screens will be situated next to the driver as people board the bus and between the driver and the staircase before passengers go upstairs.

I am struck by two electronic sign innovations that have already arrived on the London transport scene.

There are those invaluable signs at bus stops, telling you what is due, when, and where it will go.  The only problem with these signs is that not every bus stop has them.  I know, I know, you can crank up the bus app on your mobile.  But I prefer not to have to bother, and anyway, that’s a lot of fuss just for a bus.  (Note the vagiaries of the spelling there.)

And the other innovation, much more recent, is those little signs that tell pedestrians - i.e. me - how many seconds will elapse before the pedestrian sign will be turning red.  Very helpful.  I don’t want to freak out motorists by getting in their way, but nor do I want to neglect an opportunity to cross if I can do so without freaking out the motorists.  These latest signs tell me what I need to know.  And it’s amazing how far you can travel in three seconds, if you know that three seconds is all that you have, but that you definitely do have three seconds.

So, will these new sign inside buses be any use?  Judging by earlier TfL electronic signage efforts, my guess is yes.

(More rhyming fun with esses (?) there.  It could so easily have been and gues and yess.  And before that, fus and buss.  (Does such tangenting pis you off?  (And are you fed up with this multiple bracket gag? (This, I think, being the record.))))

As politically controlled entities go, TfL is not too shabby, although goodness knows what it costs.  Especially given that they are now dragging their feet (which is all it will take for Uber to get truly motoring in London) when it comes to crushing Uber.  It’s the same mentality, d’you think?  TfL likes electronic signage, whether the signs are public or personal.  Could be.  Do you think the next thing will be big public Uber signs that you can use to whistle up cheap and cheerful transport, if you don’t have a mobile on you? Again: could be.

Monday June 16 2014

Indeed:

image

Taken by?  No prizes for guessing who.  Country?  “Poland/Georgia”.  Date?  “Jan/Feb” of this year.  That’s what it said in the email.

Thursday June 05 2014

About every other day Google sends me news of Emmanuel Todd, news in French.  Sometimes it is news of him talking on video, in French.  I can just about order a croissant in a French shop, but that’s as far as my French goes.

So, imagine my delight on learning about this video, of Emmanuel Todd talking … in English!

What he is saying is that the different family systems of Europe mean that the different nations of Europe are politically incompatible, and accordingly that the Euro is doomed.  Worth a watch, if that kind of thing interests you.  In particular, the way that the Euro is putting Germany in charge of France is not at all what the French elite had in mind, and this means that sooner or later the French will have to dump the Euro.  But first, their elite has to explain why it made this hideous blunder in the first place.  Because dumping the Euro would mean admitting they should never have done it in the first place.

Tim Evans recently gave a talk to the End of the World Club (silly name, great talks) about politics, David Cameron’s politics in particular.  He said that Cameron has no problem with Britain leaving the EU, while he remains Prime Minister.  Sure enough, about two days later, an email from Tim arrives, complete with the link, saying: And so it starts ...

Moments intéressant.

Wednesday May 28 2014

Goddaughter 2 is at the very early, tadpole stage of becoming an opera star.  She has already been identified as possessing operatic superpowers, but there are, of course, many obstacles for her still to overcome.  So, fingers crossed.

This summer she will be performing at a Festival in Belle-Île, which is off the south coast of Brittany.  Her family, who live in Brittany, are kindly including me in their expedition to see and hear GD2 in action.

Obviously, there is a Festival website, and equally obviously it is basically a French thing, but it also supplies an English translation:

Welcome to the Festival lyrique international de Belle-Île-en-Mer.

With much excitement, the preparations for our 2014 season are well underway, with artists from all over the world preparing to travel to Belle-Île to rehearse and perform two dramatic masterpieces, Leoncavallo’s I Pagliacci and Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi.  Meanwhile the Festival Choir is busy rehearsing Haydn’s sublime oratorio The Creation, heard for the first time on the island.  There will be an orchestral Mozart evening, the ever-popular Ad Libitum gala concert, early-evening recitals by our young artists at the Café Bleu in Sauzon, and a series of masterclasses.

As the excitement builds, we hope you will join our festival family, and be a part of this rich, unique and inspiring season.

Which is fine.  But before reading that, on account of having not at first realised that they offered their own English version of the above, I accepted an offer from a little window at the top right of my screen to do a translation of the French original of the above, with some sort of mechanised-computerised process.

It went like this:

Welcome to the International Opera Festival of Belle-Ile-en-Mer.

The preparations for the 2014 season are progressing well, with joyful excitement.  Artists from around the world are preparing to come to Belle-Ile to rehearse and perform two masterpieces lyric, Leoncavallo Pagliacci and Gianni Schicchi by Puccini which will be donated to Arletty room.  Meanwhile the choir festival works and repeats Creation, sublime oratorio by Haydn, which will be given for the first time on the island, in the churches and the Cathedral of Vannes.  Also on the program, the Citadelle Vauban, an orchestral concert of Mozart and the ever popular concert Ad Libitum.  Finally, two concerts of our talents in the late afternoon at Café Bleu in Sauzon and a week of master classes. 

While riding the excitement, we hope you will join the family of opera festival and be this rich season unique and exciting.

Which I prefer.  It’s actually not that bad.  Most of the mistakes seem to consist of getting words in the order wrong.

The Salle Arletty is mentioned in the original French version, so it also gets a mention in the mechanised English version as a place to which musical performances will be donated.

For the original French version, go here.

My family used to go on holidays to the southern coast of Brittany when I was small, to a place from which you could see Belle-Île, but we never actually visited it.  Expect Belle-Île photos here, when all this happens.  Are you already riding the excitement?