Scots Wikipedia Fail.

Ultach has posted at Reddit about an appalling situation:

The Scots language version of Wikipedia is legendarily bad. People embroiled in linguistic debates about Scots often use it as evidence that Scots isn’t a language, and if it was an accurate representation, they’d probably be right. It uses almost no Scots vocabulary, what little it does use is usually incorrect, and the grammar always conforms to standard English, not Scots. I’ve been broadly aware of this over the years and I’ve just chalked it up to inexperienced amateurs. But I’ve recently discovered it’s more or less all the work of one person. I happened onto a Scots Wikipedia page while googling for something and it was the usual fare – poorly spelled English with the odd Scots word thrown in haphazardly. I checked the edit history to see if anyone had ever tried to correct it, but it had only ever been edited by one person. Out of curiosity I clicked on their user page, and found that they had created and edited tens of thousands of other articles, and this on a Wiki with only 60,000 or so articles total! Every page they’d created was the same. Identical to the English version of the article but with some modified spelling here and there, and if you were really lucky maybe one Scots word thrown into the middle of it.

Even though their Wikipedia user page is public I don’t want to be accused of doxxing. I’ve included a redacted version of their profile here just so you know I’m telling the truth I’ll just say that if you click on the edit history of pretty much any article on the Scots version of Wikipedia, this person will probably have created it and have been the majority of the edits, and you’ll be able to view their user page from there. They are insanely prolific. They stopped updating their milestones in 2018 but at that time they had written 20,000 articles and made 200,000 edits. That is over a third of all the content currently on the Scots Wikipedia directly attributable to them, and I expect it’d be much more than that if they had updated their milestones, as they continued to make edits and create articles between 2018 and 2020. If they had done this properly it would’ve been an incredible achievement. They’d been at this for nearly a decade, averaging about 9 articles a day. And on top of all that, they were the main administrator for the Scots language Wikipedia itself, and had been for about 7 years. All articles were written according to their standards.

The problem is that this person cannot speak Scots. I don’t mean this in a mean spirited or gatekeeping way where they’re trying their best but are making a few mistakes, I mean they don’t seem to have any knowledge of the language at all. They misuse common elements of Scots that are even regularly found in Scots English like “syne” and “an aw”, they invent words which look like phonetically written English words spoken in a Scottish accent like “knaw” (an actual Middle Scots word to be fair, thanks u/lauchteuch9) instead of “ken”, “saive” instead of “hain” and “moost” instead of “maun”, sometimes they just sometimes leave entire English phrases and sentences in the articles without even making an attempt at Scottifying them, nevermind using the appropriate Scots words. Scots words that aren’t also found in an alternate form in English are barely ever used, and never used correctly. Scots grammar is simply not used, there are only Scots words inserted at random into English sentences. […]

Wikipedia is one of the most visited websites in the world. Potentially tens of millions of people now think that Scots is a horribly mangled rendering of English rather than being a language or dialect of its own, all because they were exposed to a mangled rendering of English being called Scots by this person and by this person alone. They wrote such a massive volume of this pretend Scots that anyone writing in genuine Scots would have their work drowned out by rubbish. Or, even worse, edited to be more in line with said rubbish.

Wikipedia could have been an invaluable resource for the struggling language. Instead, it’s just become another source of ammunition for people wanting to disparage and mock it, all because of this one person and their bizarre fixation on Scots, which unfortunately never extended so far as wanting to properly learn it.

The conclusion is over-the-top — Scots is spoken by lots of people and will survive a bad Wikipedia site — but the situation is genuinely lousy, and someone at Wikipedia should step in. There is more discussion at this MeFi post, where I got the link.

Update. I am pleased to report that the situation is being addressed; see this discussion, with contributions from the editor being complained about, who has realized the error of his ways:

Honestly, I don’t mind if you revert all of my edits, delete my articles, and ban me from the wiki for good. I’ve already found out that my “contributions” have angered countless people, and to me that’s all the devastation I can be given, after years of my thinking I was doing good (and yes, obsessively editing, I have OCD). I was only a 12-year-old kid when I started, and sometimes when you start something young, you can’t see that the habit you’ve developed is unhealthy and unhelpful as you get older.

And here’s a thoughtful comment from the MetaFilter thread I linked to above:

I can see how this kind of thing starts, given his age back then. Up until I was 12 or so I assumed languages were like my (basic) understanding of secret codes – all the letters are swapped around, so you just need to know which letters to replace with which other letters and you can translate into another language. People who could speak fluently were just able to do that really, really quickly.

When I then started learning a foreign language I realised it was different, but initially I assumed it was whole words, not individual letters, that were different – you’d just swap each English word for the foreign language equivalent and there was your translation. A few lessons in and I realised there was a bit more to it.

So I can see how someone young could start off “translating” things, with the back up of an online dictionary, and assume they’re doing a good job. And then if no one tells them otherwise, they continue. And continue, and continue. By the time they get some occasional criticism it’s outweighed by the thousands and thousands of edits they’ve made that haven’t been criticised, so it’s probably seen as a minor issue – they’ve done all this “successful” work on something as high profile as Wikipedia, so they must be doing something right!

I’d hope the doubts would appear before doing quite so much work, but I can see how it gets going.

posted by fabius at 5:12 AM on August 26

Comments

  1. To be charitable, it sounds like the person responsible for all this is not in the best of mental health.

  2. Oh Wikipedia.

    I’ve posted to LH about my own experience, the one about the editors of the article about Ezra Pound who (or some of whom) turned out to be a bunch of nuts with egotistic pseudonyms and shaky educations. Of course you’d expect that to happen in the historical vicinity of a Pound, but at about the same time I was having my own wikiexperience the editor of Wikipedia’s article about American novels decided to subdivide his kuleana into “American novels by men” and “American novels by women.” When a woman novelist then protested that she wanted to be considered a novelist, only, the editor dealt with the objection by trashing her books.

    Yes I use Wikipedia myself. But I’m also aware that if I know anything about the subject I’m looking up I’ll usually find beginner-level mistakes and Fox News-watcher-level ego insecurities. Reader, you should probably be aware too — and tell your friends.

  3. David Eddyshaw says:

    I imagine that at least part of the problem is that very few of those who can speak Scots want to put in a lot of work into Wikpedia. Admittedly there may be a vicious circle here (as, alas, with Wikipedia more generally.)

    It puts me in mind of the celebrated anecdote template:

    A: I don’t care for your method of [X].
    B: OK. I’m not sure I’m altogether happy with it myself. What’s your method?
    A: I don’t really do any [X].
    B: I prefer my method.

  4. Jen in Edinburgh says:

    It’s not even those who can speak Scots, it’s those who can write it, which is not necessarily the same thing. And written Scots in a more formal register does tend to become either archaic or English, because there aren’t many other models. (Although that is hopefully becoming less true as more is written.)

  5. To be charitable, it sounds like the person responsible for all this is not in the best of mental health.

    I’m aware of that. The point is not that they should be strung up, it’s that someone like that should never have been allowed to essentially run Scots Wikipedia.

  6. Jen in Edinburgh says:

    Having read the MeFi post, it gets weirder.

    There’s a comment there which says:
    I found two instances on their user page (archive 1) where a native Scots speaker comes in with an explanation of how what this user is doing isn’t really in the Scots language.

    And here are the responses to the the other:

    @: Well, what you have there looks more like Scottish Gaelic or Irish. What we go by overall is the Online Scots Dictionary.

    Now, what this ‘native Scots speaker’ has posted as an example of native Scots, is this:

    Native Scots: “Opsr mucil lan baists fe i Proboscidea ratur in fe i Elphantidae faimle. þurs two cins: i Efrics op in i Aischin op (caud i Inde op ano). Iður cins deid siȝn i hinmaist iȝs aij, i Mamifsr i maist cet ȝins. We iður gute huiylit baists þe wur pit in i rang ratur, nú cet te bi rang, Pachydermata”

    I think I have to agree that that looks more like Irish than Scots – and even more like some bastard offspring of Icelandic and Middle English.

    I wouldn’t say I was an expert, certainly not at writing in Scots, but I studied Scottish literature for four years, including various medieval texts, and Scottish history for a year, and I have an idea what it looks like – and I’m pretty damn sure it has never looked anything like that.

  7. Yes, that may be another nutter. But a later comment (posted by mhum at 4:15 PM) points out that the user page now seems to “acknowledge that they might have fucked up”:

    If I had to do over I would’ve kept to more cleanup and just keeping the wiki up and running instead of writing articles, but I meant the best… –AmaryllisGardener talk 16:41, 25 August 2020 (UTC)

    And sohalt (at 4:21 PM) says:

    There might be a happy ending after all – someone has set up a facebook group for native-speakers to go over the articles and also contacted the editor in question who seems to realize the errors of his ways now.

  8. AJP Crown says:

    There’s a very brief Scots article on Amaryllidaceae, nothing like the English-language article. Too busy, I suppose.

  9. Buryat Wikipedia has similar issue – many articles are just copied from larger Mongolian Wikipedia and then Buryatified. Perhaps there is even a script for that.

    The problem is almost all of it is done by ethnic Buryats from Russia who don’t know Mongolian that well.

    Worse many of them don’t know Buryat that well too being essentially L1 Russian speakers.

    I feel that many Khalkha Mongolians who go to Buryat Wikipedia to see how written Buryat looks will get wrong impression that it is just mangled Mongolian.

    It isn’t, but many articles in Buryat Wikipedia are.

  10. Wow…this is a way bigger deal than Bhutanese Passport…

  11. I did know that Buryats are supposed to speak very bad (Buryat) Mongolian. I also noticed that the Buryat Wikipedia was uncannily close to Mongolian. I didn’t realise that it was these poor semi-speakers who were responsible for that.

    There have been proposals to create a Wikipedia for Mongolian in the traditional script. This has got nowhere. Writing direction appears to be too much for their software engineers.

    In the meantime, a site called http://wiki.uhaan.com had been cloning Mongolian wikipedia articles and putting them up in traditional Mongolian script. That site now seems to be inaccessible.

    Incidentally, there was a link somewhere at that Reddit thread to a similarly outraged article about a mad Australian snake-namer, who was even naming snake species after his dogs.

  12. AJP Crown says:

    Wikipedia, on the snake guy: In 2001, the Victorian Supreme Court used the offence of scandalising the court to fine Hoser $5,000 after he published names of two county court judges and two magistrates in a book entitled Victoria Police Corruption with allegations of bias and improper conduct.
    I’ve never heard this “scandalising the court”. There’s an unrelated meaning of scandalise that’s apparently used in sailing, but “scandalising the court” makes the court sound like an aged Victorian great-aunt. Defaming seems a better word. I read here that in 2012 they were doing away with it in England & Wales, partly because it’s covered by other contempt charges; it also says such a law wouldn’t occur in the US because of its free-speech axiom.

  13. These incidents raise the question of scope, ie. should Wikipedia have Scots or Buryat versions at all? And if so, should it be acknowledged that they should be very limited versions. Clearly the Scots version suffers from lack of use and lack of editors, which suggests it isn’t a priority for Scots speakers, but more of a vanity project. And now the actions of a foolish person have created a lot of work for people that they don’t want to do.

  14. David Marjanović says:

    mad Australian snake-namer

    The term “taxonomic vandalism” was coined for him. He has named unbelievable amounts of species and subspecies of snakes, most but not all of them imaginary, and all these names fulfill the minimum requirements for being properly published – by the letter of the Code, those that aren’t junior synonyms all have to be used. A petition to the Commission to declare his entire work unpublished is pending.

    Clearly the Scots version suffers from lack of use and lack of editors, which suggests it isn’t a priority for Scots speakers, but more of a vanity project.

    Such arguments easily become self-fulfilling prophecies, though: clearly some of the potential users and editors stay away because what’s there is crap.

  15. should Wikipedia have Scots or Buryat versions at all? …. more of a vanity project

    Well, that is always a good reason for discarding minority languages.

    Buryat is an official language separate from Mongolian (thanks to Russian ethnic policies). Unfortunately it is becoming moribund, but is it the place for English speakers to make a decision to get rid of it because ‘no one cares’?

    With the Chinese government’s policies on Mongolian in China, it looks like the Mongolian language in China and the traditional script will be going that way, too. China has just suspended a Mongolian-language WeChat-like service in China called Bainu, whether to suppress dissent or simply to suppress the language and the script is hard to say. Bainu was not a vanity project: it was actually used by a large number of Mongolian speakers in China. I am starting to suspect that wiki.uhaan also fell foul of the Chinese authorities and was taken down because it went against government policies (which appear to be, ‘We don’t want people using the Mongolian language’). China is going after the Mongolian language in China root and branch.

    Spot the difference.

    Yes, that is the sort of thing I was talking about. The Mongolian words have simply been given Buryat spellings. Given that Buryat has grown quite apart from Mongolian through Russification of the vocabulary, I am doubtful that this represents Buryat at all. Tragically, the only people who would read such articles are probably the sort of people who would write them. Does Wikipedia publish figures for number of visitors to each language?

  16. Thankfully, the problem is being dealt with; see my update above.

  17. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    It was the realization that the Wikipedia list of biochemists was hopelessly bad (though not as bad as the Scots pages under discussion) that brought me to think that I should register as an editor and fix the most egregious faults. I’ve now done that, but there is still work to do. The list as it was omitted some of the most noteworthy creators of 20th century biochemistry, such as Fritz Lipmann (someone I have no connection with), and included a lot of people famous for being the father of Nicole Kidman, or for being wrong about something important, such as so-called arsenic life (Felicia Wolfe-Simon), which a basic knowledge of arsenic chemistry would have shown to be impossible. Most of the deletions that I made are probably uncontroversial, but one I expected to raise protests was the entry for Isaac Asimov: yes, he was a professor of biochemistry at Boston University; yes, he wrote a very successful textbook of biochemistry (at a time when there weren’t any halfway decent textbooks of biochemistry); but no, he did no significant research and anything he did has been forgotten. He’s famous for other reasons. So far (in two months) no one has tried to reinstate him.

  18. Well done! It’s good to hear stories like that, to counteract the many tales of woe that lead people to give up trying.

  19. David Eddyshaw says:

    What Hat said.

    mad Australian snake-namer

    My new favourite general-purpose insult.

  20. AJP Crown says:

    People who’ve been wrong about something important could be an interesting Wikipedia category in itself.

  21. People who’ve been wrong about something important could be an interesting Wikipedia category in itself.

    Category:Pseudo-scholarship is probably the closest

    The discussion in Hat’s update is heartening, but I did smile at this sequence of comments:

    * Having an audit of small wikis to check for issues like this sounds like a splendid idea to me.

    * Luckily, that seems to actually exist, with the Small Wiki Monitoring Team

    * Just FYI the editor in question is a part of SWMT.

  22. Heh.

  23. I see Michael Dempster has just created a ‘Scots wikipedia editors’ FB page – and one of the members is proposing a “Scots Wikipedia Editathon” where “fowk can assign thaimsels tae sort oot wan or mair o the airticles, or thay can sort oot an airticle no listit, or mak thair ain.”

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/357351445642702/

  24. Excellent!

  25. David Marjanović says:

    being wrong about something important, such as so-called arsenic life (Felicia Wolfe-Simon)

    Oh yeah. I won’t forget the bacterium GFAJ-1 – that stands for “give Felicia a job”.

    Not fame, riches or any such stuff, or mad-scientist things like revenge. Just… a job. This is what science has come to. I feel her pain.

    The reason that life which uses arsenic instead of phosphorus is impossible, BTW, is exactly the reason why arsenic trioxide is so famously poisonous: unlike polyphosphates, polyarsenates fall apart in water of a wide range of temperatures. When we get arsenate, we use it to make ATP, which prompty falls apart; too much of that, and we die.

  26. @David Marjanović: When the story about the supposed arsenic-using cells came out, I remember I immediately went to look up the characteristics of the two atoms. There is a 0.15 Å difference in radii between arsenic and phosphorous, which may not sound like much, but it’s a 13% difference. That’s enough to totally change the chemistry, and that should have been obvious to anyone who looked at the issue.

  27. Jen in Edinburgh: Be careful what you wish for, that hole goes deeper than you think. You’re probably finding the conversation with the “Focurc guy”, who believed he was one of the world’s only speakers of a dying language in Falkirk, and essentially invented his own conlang that was indeed a kind of cross of Scots and Scottish Gaelic. He’s probably an even bigger loon than the well-intentioned but incompetent editor in question here.

  28. J.W. Brewer says:

    This is a small point but I had forgotten about the arsenic-eating-bacterium controversy, which I followed vaguely at best when it was current, and when I googled to try to refresh my memory I was intrigued to learn that Dr. Wolfe-Simon’s given name is not Felicia (reasonably common in her cohort in the U.S.) but the much rarer (in the U.S.) variant Felisa – a sufficiently rare variant that I can’t say I recall ever meeting a bearer of it. Indeed in her year of birth (said to be 1978 by the first plausible-looking source I googled up) there were over 46 Feliciae born in the U.S. for every Felisa. That said, most other Felisae notable enough to have wikipedia articles about them are from the Hispanophone world, and Dr. Wolfe-Simon is apparently from partially-Hispanophone Miami.

  29. January First-of-May says:

    You’re probably finding the conversation with the “Focurc guy”, who believed he was one of the world’s only speakers of a dying language in Falkirk, and essentially invented his own conlang that was indeed a kind of cross of Scots and Scottish Gaelic. He’s probably an even bigger loon than the well-intentioned but incompetent editor in question here.

    This in turn reminds me of Yaroslav Zolotaryov, who did a similar thing with his “Siberian language”, and managed to actually get his project promoted into a separate Wikipedia edition.

    …For about a year or two, before it became entirely clear just how loony the whole thing was. As a result, the rules as to which languages could be allowed to have their own Wikipedia editions were significantly tightened, with unfortunate collateral damage to the nearly-complete Ancient Greek proposal (which might yet be eventually reinstated, some day, but under the new rules their best chance is probably bringing up a child in Ancient Greek).

  30. Yes, I was thinking of Zolotaryov too.

  31. Adrian Bailey says:

    should Wikipedia have Scots or Buryat versions at all? …. more of a vanity project

    “Well, that is always a good reason for discarding minority languages.”

    Rather a hyperbolic response. I’m 100% in favour of supporting minority languages, but some common sense is required. Wikipedia is a huge undertaking in any language, and just the fact of its existence is not reason enough to feel pressurised into devoting precious hours into its development, when there are many other competing options for how to preserve/promote use of a language, and a limited number of competent/committed people to do the work.

  32. Wikipedia has its own mechanisms for deciding what languages should be featured. Unfortunately they don’t always work as well as they should. I don’t know how Buryat made it through — possibly through the passionate arguments of a champion of Buryat.

    Perhaps the bigger problem is whether the people who start these things can see them through.

    Mongolian itself is a marginal case. It doesn’t seem to attract many contributors and there are huge gaps in coverage which make it not very useful.

    Unlike English-language Wikipedia it has a strange policy of giving only one standard name to any phenomenon, which usually means excluding the foreign (Russian) name. Alternative names are never mentioned in the lead. (The most obvious example is пиво pivo ‘beer’, a name which everyone uses but is officially known as шар айраг shar airag. The article is at Шар айраг and пиво is only mentioned tangentially towards the end.)

  33. As I remember more about the arsenic biochemistry folderol, I recall the tentative conclusion I arrived at regarding Felisa Wolfe-Simon’s overall research strategy. It seemed like she had first picked a phenomenon that, if it were actually discovered, would be ground breaking and certain to win the discoverer a Nobel prize and permanent fame in the field. Then, she set out to look for that phenomenon in nature, and, thanks to motivated reasoning, came to believe that she had found it.

    I myself have an idea for a a biochemical phenomenon that I think has a reasonable chance of appearing somewhere in the biosphere. It is an ion transport complex that achieves isotopic sensitivity, by making use of multiple hand-offs between carrier proteins, each one with a substantial chance of losing the ion back into the cytosol. The first person to discover such a complex would be guaranteed to receive prestigious awards and a position at a top institution. However (and not just because I am not a biochemist), I have not tried to make a career out of finding such a complex; the odds of locating it successfully would just be too low to take the risk.

  34. David Marjanović says:

    Felisa

    *facepalm* Yes. I found that quite noticeable at the time.

    шар айраг

    “Yellow version of fermented mare’s milk”?

    motivated reasoning

    I’m not sure about that; IIRC, sloppy measuring was involved – the results convinced the reviewers after all.

    isotopic sensitivity

    Why would that ever be selected for?

  35. “Daddy, are you drinking alcohol?”
    “No, sweetie, it’s just a yellow version of fermented mare’s milk”

  36. @David Marjanović: If some isotopes are radioactive and thus dangerous, the the process could allow for the preferential uptake of stable (or less radioactive) isotopes only. For example, a carcinogenic radioisotope of iodine could be preferentially excluded from the thyroid, lowering the risk of cancer. However, there was no actual selection pressure for such an iodine specificity example to evolve, because there are no meaningful amounts of naturally occurring radioactive iodine.

  37. Brett, there is no known biochemical molecules which rely on having deuterium substitute for hydrogen somewhere. Is that what you mean?

  38. Don’t eat the yellow snow. Do, however, drink the yellow horse yoghurt.

  39. I myself have an idea for a a biochemical phenomenon that I think has a reasonable chance of appearing somewhere in the biosphere. It is an ion transport complex that achieves isotopic sensitivity, by making use of multiple hand-offs between carrier proteins, each one with a substantial chance of losing the ion back into the cytosol.

    It’s a fun idea for an SF story, and reminds me somewhat of the Asimov story about the goose that laid the golden eggs (Pate de Foie Gras).

  40. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    Brett, there is no known biochemical molecules which rely on having deuterium substitute for hydrogen somewhere. Is that what you mean?

    Qualitatively, you’re right, but kinetic isotope effects mean that quantitatively you may not be, because breaking a carbon-deuterium bond is typically around seven times slower than breaking a carbon-protium bond. This gives some possibility of selectivity.

  41. David Marjanović says:

    Argh, I forgot:

    This in turn reminds me of Yaroslav Zolotaryov, who did a similar thing with his “Siberian language”, and managed to actually get his project promoted into a separate Wikipedia edition.

    That guy was at least, AFAIK, a native speaker of a Siberian dialect (of Russian). What he did was “develop” it into what he declared a standard all on his own.

    As a result, the rules as to which languages could be allowed to have their own Wikipedia editions were significantly tightened, with unfortunate collateral damage to the nearly-complete Ancient Greek proposal (which might yet be eventually reinstated, some day, but under the new rules their best chance is probably bringing up a child in Ancient Greek).

    Really? There is a Wikipedia in Latin (it’s pretty large, too), and I don’t think the Old English one has disappeared either.

  42. Richard Hershberger says:

    This story is an excellent illustration of one of the limitations of the Wikipedia model. There is a sweet zone where the model works really well: a topic of wide enough interest that there will be a suitably large number of eyes looking at it, while at the same time lacking controversy that would lead to edit wars, and ideally with lots of discrete facts rather than analysis.

    For those types of articles, it is pretty reliable. Not absolutely so. I once looked up the date of the first baseball no-hitter. I knew the approximate date, and wanted to track down newspaper coverage. Wikipedia has one of those lists that are its glory, so this was easy to look up. But when I checked newspaper reports, it wasn’t there. I did some more digging and found the correct date about a week off. This inspired me to dig through the page’s history. A couple of years earlier some merry prankster had lobbed a series of bombs at that page. This game had been overlooked in the subsequent cleanup. So it goes. The moral is that for anything serious, retrosheet is more reliable, not being editable by any random passerby. But in fairness, this sort of problem is unusual for Wikipedia. It surprised me at the time.

    There are, however, vast swaths of human knowledge outside this sweet zone. The obviously controversial has received a lot of attention. I assume that the articles on Donald Trump and Joe Biden are locked down pretty tightly. The tendency I observe, though, is for the Wikipedia establishment to imagine that this is the only problem area, and it has been solved. The Scots Wikipedia debacle illustrates another such area: one that doesn’t attract enough attention to get those sets of eyes. I suspect that when people qualified to do it right look at it, they recoil in horror and decide it is better to just walk away.

    The people just walking away have a pretty darned good argument. It may be that in this instance they could have simply made the changes and that would be that, but this is not the general case. As an example, a friend of mine wrote a biography of Alexander Cartwright who, it turns out (and to her surprise in the research stage) did not invent baseball, or even perform the weaker version of writing the first codified rules. Being an honest historian, this entirely changed her book from what she had expected to write. She tried to correct Cartwright’s Wikipedia page, and got slapped down. The problem is that while the people who actually know what they are talking about know this about Cartwright, there are an awful lot of baseball fans who know just enough to think that they know what they are talking about who find this an absurd claim. There really isn’t a good way to fight this. The Wikipedia culture is against “experts.” Any discussion that amounts to “I know more about this than you do” is a huge red flag, even (or especially) if the assertion is backed up. Then there is Wikipedia’s fondness for cheap citations. The person arguing for Cartwright’s having invented baseball can easily produce an endless list of citations. Finally, there is the “neutral point of view,” which isn’t nearly so good an idea as it might first seem. Far more people believe the Cartwright Myth than affirmatively reject it, making it the neutral point of view.

    I briefly toyed with the idea of creating a “Cartwright Controversy” page, with a link from the main entry. This probably could have been slipped in, but I decided it wasn’t worth the hassle. This is the classic Wikipedia problem. By rejecting the concept of expertise and letting just anyone edit, it makes the exercise about process rather than content. I am interested in the content: researching early baseball and writing about it. I am not interested in the process any more than I need to be to get published, and I am certainly not interested in engaging in the Wikipedia process. So it goes.

  43. PlasticPaddy says:

    I would say the native speech transcription is Orkney (not Gaelic)
    fae = from
    hinmost = last
    muckle = big
    kent = known
    ee = the numeral one
    Source: https://orkneydictionary.scot/dictionary
    Most other words are Scots but not in the Orkney dictionary.
    Notes
    1. rang for order and (w)rang for wrong are used together in the last sentence
    2. Use of ratur in the sense “more precisely”
    3. cet yins = kent kins (maybe the speaker pronounces the tk as ty).
    4. ee is used as a definite article (Welsh influence?)
    5. in is used for “and” and also for “in” when the next word begins with a vowel.
    Unexplained words:
    op = elephant
    (gude) huiylit = (thick) skinned
    ano = also

  44. David Eddyshaw says:
  45. Sad but true.

  46. PlasticPaddy, isn’t ano just an aw, mentioned above?

  47. PlasticPaddy says:

    I thought an’ aw meant “and all” but you are right.

  48. John Cowan says:

    There is a Wikipedia in Latin (it’s pretty large, too), and I don’t think the Old English one has disappeared either.

    Your grandfather could vote, and therefore so can you, even if you don’t meet the minimum standards. (“Race-neutral” white supremacy is no recent thing.)

    Update: Looking at the Cartwright article now, it seems to be fairly skeptical.

  49. Lars Mathiesen says:

    Opsr mucil lan baists … — was that Focurc Guy? It almost makes sense as somehow related to English if you squint at it, unlike Irish. [Elephants] are very large beasts that belong to Proboscideae or Elephantideae and there are two kinds, the African one and the Asian one (also called the Indian one), both kinds … ice age … why go on.

    EDIT: Oops, that’s what PP said in more detail, I somehow skipped that comment when reading back.

  50. Richard Hershberger says:

    Citogenesis: Yup. Wikipedia is very proud of itself for demanding citations, but it doesn’t demand *good* ones. Indeed, given the de facto preference for online cites over old fuddy-duddy paper books, it tends to favor bad ones (which is not to say that online citations are necessarily bad, but playing the percentages…)

  51. The Scots Wikipedia situation (basically, articles controlled by an autistic teenager with little/no knowledge of the subject and way too much time on their hands) describes a huge portion of English Wikipedia as well. Wikipedia reflects (and indeed helps engender) the populist and anti-elitist epistemology that is ascendant in the US and elsewhere today, from anti-vaxxers to climate change denialists to other conspiracy theorists. In fact the Wikipedia articles on vaccination and climate change more or less conform to expert views on those subjects, at least for now. But the underlying principles that govern the site are fundamentally hostile to expertise, and this is a dangerous thing.

  52. I think that’s way overstated. Yes, there are elements hostile to expertise, and in places they prevail, but the basic ethos is in the other direction — the insistence on citations is intended to rely on expertise so long as it’s officially published. I have little sympathy for self-proclaimed experts who whine that they can’t prevail on their own say-so.

  53. I used to say that Wikipedia was a pretty good way to find information about topics that were neither controversial nor subtle. It has improved a lot since then, but there are still plenty of hot-button topics in which tendentious editors prevent the site from developing reliable articles.

  54. True, but I’m not sure there’s any way to develop even an approximate idea of what the percentage of such articles is. In my experience, it’s far more common to run into articles problematic because they’re outdated or focused on a single minor point (because that’s what the person who created the article cared about) rather than because they’re tendentious.

  55. language hat says: I think that’s way overstated. Yes, there are elements hostile to expertise, and in places they prevail, but the basic ethos is in the other direction — the insistence on citations is intended to rely on expertise so long as it’s officially published. I have little sympathy for self-proclaimed experts who whine that they can’t prevail on their own say-so.

    I will be very surprised if you tell me you have spent a significant amount of time editing Wikipedia. The process often goes: make an edit, citing research published in a reputable scholarly journal. Have your edit swiftly reverted by a Wikipedia “power user”, who counters your citation with one (or more than one) of substantially poorer quality. If you happen to be a whiny self-proclaimed expert with an academic job, you don’t have the time to sit on Wikipedia all day and fight to defend your edits against an editor who has absolutely nothing else to do, so you let it go.

    Besides, who’s to say that that research published in high-impact-factor, peer-reviewed journals by whiny, self-proclaimed experts is any better than journalism officially published on the web? I suppose only whiny, self-proclaimed experts would insist on a distinction.

  56. I will be very surprised if you tell me you have spent a significant amount of time editing Wikipedia.

    Prepare to be surprised; I’ve been an editor since 2006 and have indeed spent a significant amount of time at it — here are my contributions for your perusal. Yes, of course I’ve had experiences like that, but not very often. I see you’ve had worse luck at it; that’s exactly what I mean when I say it’s hard to develop even an approximate idea of the percentages. One always judges by one’s own experience.

  57. Oh, and since you seem to have taken offense at my “self-proclaimed experts,” I assure you it wasn’t directed at you. If you haven’t run into the kind of person I’m talking about, you’ve had better luck in that regard.

  58. January First-of-May says:

    Citogenesis

    Not just Wikipedia, though it does make the whole process a lot easier.

    I’m reminded of when I discovered, to my surprise, that Milton Sirotta, the (supposed) inventor of the word “googol” (as in the number), was actually born in 1911 and not, as most references say, in 1929.
    I rather doubt that I could ever have convinced Wikipedia editors of that; most citations I found said 1929.

    (There are independent, non-googol-related, sources on his life – such as genealogical databases – that do give the 1911 date, which is why I’m fairly confident of 1911 being correct.
    The first reference I found to the 1911 version, however, was to the effect of “I found a Milton Sirotta b. 1911 in my database – was he related?” It took me a while to figure out the identity.
    Incidentally, I’ve tangentially mentioned Milton Sirotta’s birth date once previously on LH.)

    On the subject of genealogical databases: anyone willing to try figuring out what became of B. Nicolò I. Paganini, of Genova (b. 1849/50), who discovered the second smallest amicable number pair in 1866? Search results are swamped by irrelevant references to the violinist.

  59. David Eddyshaw says:

    I’ve just this very day had the extremely odd experience of seeing a very recent edit of a Wikipedia article which I strongly suspect relies (though without attribution) on a rather farfetched hypothesis published by me online which I was only ever very tentative about, and which I have long since abandoned (and corrected in its place.)

    Yeeuch. I’ve poisoned the wells of knowledge …

  60. I see you’ve had worse luck at it; that’s exactly what I mean when I say it’s hard to develop even an approximate idea of the percentages. One always judges by one’s own experience.

    Fair enough. It may also be that different dynamics prevail in different domains of Wikipedia. I shouldn’t have generalized so much from my own experience, though I’ve heard people who work in different fields make similar remarks as well.

    Oh, and since you seem to have taken offense at my “self-proclaimed experts,” I assure you it wasn’t directed at you.

    Sorry for my snarky tone in response, I did indeed assume that you took me for one.

  61. I’ve heard people who work in different fields make similar remarks as well.

    Well, I suspect actual experts — like you and those people — probably encounter it more than those of us (presumably a large majority) who simply dabble in things and make random edits as we go. If you’re an expert in a particular area and there happens to be a Wikicabal infesting that area, you’re going to keep running into it.

  62. PlasticPaddy says:

    @j fom
    Re the N. Paganini who is credited with the amicable number pair discovery, in sites i have seen, he is referred to as a student (but not at a specific university or school) or as a “calcolatore mentale”. If he was one of these child prodigies, it is possible he reached his peak in 1867 and disappeared from public attention.

  63. >>should Wikipedia have Scots or Buryat versions at all? …. more of a vanity project

    Well, that is always a good reason for discarding minority languages.

    If all the speakers of Scots are at least as competent in English — or some mainstream wikipedia language, I can’t see a lot of point in merely translating English wp into Scots — even if done competently.

    Who would be the target readership for (say) a translated article about even that Scot Hume’s philosophy?

    Potentially tens of millions of people now think that Scots is a horribly mangled rendering of English

    Presumably wp has stats of how many people view those pages. ‘tens of millions’ is a several orders of magnitude over-estimate, surely?

    For wp to value a minority language, I’d expect articles on that language, its history, literature, culture of speakers, etc., etc. and for those to be the source for translations into English.

    That also goes for wp in Latin or Classical Greek: why try to translate the whole of wp, needing making up vocabulary for stuff that wasn’t invented in those times?

  64. The citation comes three months late, but here’s a link to a Shetland poet discussing his language and some translations into it from the American, including the icebox poem “Jist ti Let Ye No.”

    http://jacket2.org/commentary/new-book-shetland-poet-rewrites-williamss-nantucket

  65. This reminds me of the possibly apocryphal quote by Fidel Castro: “One motivated idiot is worse than ten thousand counterevolutionaries”.

    I can see how this kind of thing starts, given his age back then. Up until I was 12 or so I assumed languages were like my (basic) understanding of secret codes”

    I once was twelve, but I never was that dumb. Nor was I arrogant enough to think I can do a better job of something involving a language than native speakers. So, you know, BS.

    This whole affair highlights some of the endemic problems with Wiki and, well, humanity in general:
    1. Wiki relies on volunteer effort. No matter how motivated these volunteers are, 99% of them will give up after some time.
    2. And this gets even worse for minority languages, considering how small the pools of suitable editors for those are.
    3. Consequently, the chance are very high that the teams of editors for minority languages are mostly composed of cranks or idiots. I hesitate to even check the Belarusian and Lusatian Wikis…

    ‘tens of millions’ is a several orders of magnitude over-estimate, surely?

    Yeah, I don’t think that many people care…

    I’m 100% in favour of supporting minority languages, but some common sense is required. Wikipedia is a huge undertaking in any language

    Common sense is too much to ask, but some Process would be nice. E.g. a skeleton Wiki, perhaps of the type AntC, would be a good idea, so that the article creation is less haphazard and random.

  66. PlasticPaddy:

    I thought an’ aw meant “and all”

    It does though, doesn’t it?

  67. David Marjanović says:

    Up until I was 12 or so I assumed languages were like my (basic) understanding of secret codes

    I once was twelve, but I never was that dumb.

    You also didn’t grow up in a completely monoglot environment. You never even had a chance to be that dumb. 🙂

    Nor was I arrogant enough to think I can do a better job of something involving a language than native speakers.

    I can’t see any hint that that guy thought he could do a better job than the native speakers. As far as I can tell, he saw the native speakers weren’t doing any job at all, thought he could do it, and concluded he should therefore do it.

  68. For wp to value a minority language, I’d expect articles on that language, its history, literature, culture of speakers, etc., etc. and for those to be the source for translations into English.

    This is very good point.

    Mongolian Wikipedia is sometimes useful by providing Mongolian POV on some historical events, sometimes even giving details not available elsewhere.

    Eg, the most detailed information about Sino-Mongolian border war of 1947 can be found only in Mongolian Wiki.

    https://translate.google.com/translate?sl=auto&tl=en&u=https%3A%2F%2Fmn.wikipedia.org%2Fwiki%2F%25D0%2591%25D0%25B0%25D0%25B9%25D1%2582%25D0%25B0%25D0%25B3_%25D0%2591%25D0%25BE%25D0%25B3%25D0%25B4%25D1%258B%25D0%25BD_%25D1%2585%25D0%25B8%25D0%25BB%25D0%25B8%25D0%25B9%25D0%25BD_%25D0%25BC%25D3%25A9%25D1%2580%25D0%25B3%25D3%25A9%25D0%25BB%25D0%25B4%25D3%25A9%25D3%25A9%25D0%25BD

  69. For wp to value a minority language, I’d expect articles on that language, its history, literature, culture of speakers, etc., etc. and for those to be the source for translations into English.

    I guess you’ve mainly visited Wikipedia in English? Talk about valuing “minority languages” is somewhat beside the point. One would assume that Chinese is a major language, but as I’ve pointed out before, the Chinese Wikipedia article on “Hegemonism” (a pretty important concept in Chinese history) is someone’s rather selective (I might even say biased) translation of parts of the English article.

    In fact, the entire Wikipedia project encourages (or at one time encouraged) translating articles from wiki articles in other languages. You will regularly find articles in Chinese or Japanese that point out the English-language background (etymology, development of meaning) of terms.

    That means that Wikipedia is essentially providing speakers of other languages (especially weaker speakers who don’t have the courage or ability to function fully in English) with a handy, easy-to-understand window onto the Anglosphere.

    Notwithstanding what SFReader said, I don’t agree with your statement that “For wp to value a minority language, I’d expect articles on that language, its history, literature, culture of speakers, etc., etc. and for those to be the source for translations into English”, and that if it doesn’t then it’s just a “vanity project”. That’s not how the world works. The world is pretty hopelessly Anglocentric, but that doesn’t make other wikis “vanity projects'”

  70. January First-of-May says:

    I hesitate to even check the Belarusian and Lusatian Wikis…

    Belarusian was actually hit by this in a really weird way – much of the early editor community (don’t think it was just one editor, that time) wrote in an obsolete orthography that wasn’t actually standard Belarusian, so when an edition in standard Belarusian was officially created (via Incubator), it displaced the ~6000 article existing edition, which was moved to a holding domain (be-x-old).

    After a brief round of complaints, a decision was made to keep both running, so now there are two Belarusian Wikipedias (be and be-tarask, moved from be-x-old in 2015). Both seem fairly active as far as I’m aware, but it’s not like I’ve checked.

    I can’t see any hint that that guy thought he could do a better job than the native speakers. As far as I can tell, he saw the native speakers weren’t doing any job at all, thought he could do it, and concluded he should therefore do it.

    Pretty much. I’m reminded of when I arrived at Russian Memory Alpha Wiki in 2007, saw that it has almost no articles, and decided that I should be the one to translate some from English.

    I never actually got around to that, which in retrospect was probably a good thing: my English was pretty bad at the time (not that I realized it), and I knew almost nothing about Star Trek.

     
    EDIT: also, now that I think of it, in Russian (and also FYLOSC, as far as I’m aware), dialects are mostly distinguished by word choice rather than accent (unlike US English, where accents are a lot more salient), which makes it a lot harder to just assume that, e.g., Scots is just English with a Scottish accent (which one can easily learn to imitate, at least in writing), as opposed to, say, English with Scottish terminology (which is far easier to mess up).

    There are jokes about Russians in Ukraine being caught by their bad Ukrainian – precisely on those very word choice matters. I highly suspect that there are similar jokes about Serbs in Croatia being caught by their bad Croatian (or vice versa).

  71. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    If all the speakers of Scots are at least as competent in English — or some mainstream wikipedia language, I can’t see a lot of point in merely translating English wp into Scots — even if done competently.

    About ten years a Catalan speaker of our acquaintance proudly showed me a Catalan translation that he and two other guys had made of a major textbook (which already existed as a Castilian translation). Given that virtually all people capable of reading a textbook in Catalan could read the same thing almost as easily in Castilian I wondered what the point was. Surely they had more useful things to do? Fortunately my wife was talking to someone in another office at the time: she would have been more forthright than I was.Her views on minority languages are much more radical than mine are, and she would be quite happy if Catalan just became extinct (that is not my view).

    In support of my claim that Catalan speakers have no difficulty understanding Castilian, I recount an episode in Barcelona in 1995. At the beginning of my lecture I said that I couldn’t speak Catalan, but the audience (composed mainly of students) could choose between good English or bad Castilian: they voted overwhelmingly for Castilian.

  72. David Marjanović says:

    AFAIK, the difference between the two Belarusian Wikipedias isn’t just orthography: the older one uses a pre-Soviet nationalist standard of the language, the newer one the Soviet standard that is closer to Russian, and there’s been ideological conflict between users of the two standards for decades.

    (I have no idea what the reality on the ground is among the people that don’t use Russian in daily life to begin with.)

    I highly suspect that there are similar jokes about Serbs in Croatia being caught by their bad Croatian (or vice versa).

    Probably not, because many of the lexical differences don’t line up with the border, so that both (or more) words are actually found on both sides as long as the ideologues aren’t watching.

    Faking ijekavian when you’re ekavian must be hard, though. Even when the radio broadcaster of the Bosnian Serbs tried to do the opposite (so they’d sound like they were from Belgrade), they had to give up after a day or two because they just couldn’t do it.

  73. Richard Hershberger says:

    Another note on Wikipedia citations: My own work is cited here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Town_ball. The characterization of my conclusion is not only factually incorrect, but inexplicably so. It would take a profound inability to read for comprehension to get that from the cited article. Yes, I could in theory correct this, but the entire page is such a disaster as to make such a correction like putting a band aid on a sucking chest wound. And even if I summoned the energy to take on the entire article. the entire series of baseball history articles are collectively an utter mess. This is a rabbit hole I don’t want to go down, because I would rather spend my available time on research and writing up the results. I gather that my reaction is not uncommon.

  74. Apparently not. The crooked timber of humanity…

  75. I know an author whose Wikipedia page contains several commonly repeated errors. Every time she tries to correct them, her corrections are reverted because she can’t cite sources. The last time I mentioned this online, I had someone patiently explain to me why she deserved that.

  76. That’s a common problem, and frustrating as it is for the people concerned, rules are rules, and you’ve got to be able to cite a published source.

  77. That’s a common problem, and frustrating as it is for the people concerned, rules are rules, and you’ve got to be able to cite a published source.

    To defend Wikipedia spreading falsehoods because “rules are rules” is ridiculous.

    Wikipedia has had problems in the past with people making false statements about living people. In fact, articles about living people are (or used to be) marked with a warning.

    Rather than saying that “rules are rules”, perhaps it would be fairer to consider that “citations from published sources obviously isn’t cutting it” (the rules are faulty), and that there should be recourse for a person to correct errors in articles about themselves.

  78. At a minimum, if you use your blog/Twitter/Reddit-IAMA to explicitly deny something in your Wikipedia biography, the article can be updated to reference your denial. Whether the article retains the impugned statement, or qualifies it, or deletes it altogether, is a harder question. Prince Andrew denies some stuff that’s still mentioned in his article.

    Philip Roth’s New Yorker complaint about Wikipedia’s article on “The Human Stain” is now cited in that article, though the revised text might not meet with his approval.

  79. there should be recourse for a person to correct errors in articles about themselves.

    There is recourse (mollymooly suggests one possibility), but the people complaining usually are too upset to take the trouble to figure out how the system works. I don’t blame them, but it would be ludicrous to say that because there’s a problem the whole system should be junked. Requiring citations is all that keeps Wikipedia from turning into Wookieepedia.

  80. Lars Mathiesen says:

    On the face of it, it is against policy to use your birth certificate to counter a wrong date of birth given for yourself, because it contains personal information — to wit, your date of birth. I would hope an exception could be made… Anyway, there is this:

    Never use self-published sources—including but not limited to books, zines, websites, blogs, and tweets—as sources of material about a living person, unless written or published by the subject of the article.

    (Boldface in the source). Logically, this allows Rodger C’s author to post information on her own WP talk page and cite it.

    The presentation of maths on WP may not be ideal, but at least people largely agree on the validity of proofs. (Priority is another matter).

  81. AJP Crown says:

    My problem with Wikipedia is architects – probably one or more of their employees – writing articles about their own firm. It’s sort of necessary, any potential client is going to google before they hire an architect, but it’s awfully boring; they have always taught at several Ivy League schools of arch. (= having spent an afternoon on a friend’s jury), have tons of experience designing every known built form, won a couple of awards and no controversy has ever come near them. I’m sure they get their birth date right though, so that’s good.

  82. John Cowan says:

    If all the speakers of Scots are at least as competent in English — or some mainstream wikipedia language, I can’t see a lot of point in merely translating English wp into Scots — even if done competently.

    So that (some) Scots can have the pleasure and satisfaction of reading articles about all sorts of things in their native language. Why, after all, should there be a Danish WP, when 90% of all Danes speak English (to what degree is of course a question)? Yet by going to the front page of da.WP I am told “Der findes nu over 52 millioner artikler på Wikipedia, hvoraf 260.884 er på dansk”, which even I can read (though knowing what whereof means certainly helps), so presumably both editors and readers find it valuable. What is more, the Danish WP is about 70% the size of the Turkish WP, from which there is no obvious alternative language for Turks to turn to (ouch), even though Denmark only has about 10% as many Internet users as Turkey (which seems a more relevant metric than total population).

    <rant>But if Scots is to be used for prose, it must be a Scots Dachsprache, with a (reasonably well) agreed-on syntax, orthography, and vocabulary, like English, Danish, or Turkish, or more directly Catalan, Faroese, or Finnish. Poetry you can write in whatever you like, including your mother’s pidgin of English words with Arabic affixes (Every-tin you buy-it-in the house-in-it you make-it-in ‘Everything you [can] buy, you [can] make in the house’, per one of Mencken’s informants).

    And that means not pretending that Scots, like their relatives over the Border, have forgotten the Northern Subject Rule (they sing vs. the birds sings), or that “aggressively Central Belt spellings” (thus Tait) like yaise ‘use’ instead of diaphonemic uise can cleanly represent the whole of Scots, given that the Central Belt has merged away many vowel distinctions, much as many American English speakers have. I and others who make those distinctions would not like to have to puzzle out whether mary represents marry, merry, or is a typo for Mary. (Sure we’d get used to it eventually, but we shouldn’t have to.)</rant>

    Here’s Tait at more length, about (and in) “expository Scots” (glosses mine):

    The’r raesons whit wey sic a register maun [must] be conservative. The first haes ti dae wi pittin forrit a hale langage, an no juist sindrie dialects. The example o the word guid haes aften been uised. Gin ye’r writin yer ain dialect, ye micht write gid or gyid or geed or gweed or göd. But gin ye uised ane o thae maks [forms] in an offeecial blad [not in DSL, but evidently ‘document] (or onie writin, for that maiter) supposed ti be in ‘Scots’, a lot o fowk micht staw [stall] at it, pleenin at [complaining that] it wis ‘Glesca’ or ‘Doric’ or whitiver, an no thair langage ava [at all]. The tradeetional spellin guid can beir aa thae differin pronunciations, an is aesy recognised as a Scots word. This is juist the maist kenspeckle [outstanding] example o a principle o briggin [bridging] dialects [th]at shoud be the main principle ahint [behind] Scots spellin.

    obsolete orthography that wasn’t actually standard Belarusian

    But closely related to the pre-1933 written form that continues to be used in the Belarusian diaspora. The reason it was not standardized then is that it was not Russian-like enough.

    At the beginning of my lecture I said that I couldn’t speak Catalan, but the audience (composed mainly of students) could choose between good English or bad Castilian: they voted overwhelmingly for Castilian.

    This replicated Feynman’s experience teaching in Brazil in 1949-51, where he noticed that he could understand his students’ bad English far better than their Portuguese, and so he carefully wrote out his lectures in bad Portuguese and delivered them that way. He tried having his Portuguese corrected by native speakers, but when he did that, he himself couldn’t understand what he was saying.

  83. blad [not in DSL, but evidently ‘document]

    Cognate with German blatt etc. meaning newspaper?

    Why, after all, should there be a Danish WP, when 90% of all Danes speak English

    One of the good things about Wikipedia is that it is not as skewed as the ‘real world’ (the world of physical books and papers) towards European languages. So there is at least a sprinkling of African languages (although I don’t see Kusaal in there), and unlike China, which is trying to eradicate all of its dialects and languages in favour of putonghua, you can read articles in Chinese dialects and minority languages. For some these might appear to be ‘vanity projects’, but they do serve to show the world that it does not have to belong to a handful of hegemonic languages.

  84. So that (some) Scots can have the pleasure and satisfaction of reading articles about all sorts of things in their native language.

    None could have been doing that, or they’d far sooner have kicked up a stink about the travesty. (And if they’d been reading Scots wp to learn/familiarise themselves with Scots, then horror! More harm than no Scots wp at all.)

    Why, after all, should there be a Danish WP, when 90% of all Danes speak English

    As I already explained: at least to document Danish language/literature/history. Also the influence of significant Danes, perhaps including their own writings in their own tongue. Also given that wp covers some pretty obscure/intricate topics, Danes might find their command of English has limits, and they’d rather tackle complex subjects without added cognitive effort.

    This story, by the way, is now all over the dead-trees press: a couple of days ago in the Guardian; today syndicated in my local paper in NZ.

    Apparently Facebook has been relying on Scots wp as corpora for their ‘algorithms’. It’s going to take much more than deleting the whole site to rid the interwebs of the mess. (Google translate offers only Scots Gaelic.)

  85. This replicated Feynman’s experience teaching in Brazil in 1949-51, where he noticed that he could understand his students’ bad English far better than their Portuguese, and so he carefully wrote out his lectures in bad Portuguese and delivered them that way. He tried having his Portuguese corrected by native speakers, but when he did that, he himself couldn’t understand what he was saying.

    I bet his students also benefited from the clarity Feynman would have gained from having to choose his words carefully and not being able to hide anything behind the rhetorical flourishes that come easily in one’s first language.

  86. David Eddyshaw says:

    As Wittgenstein says: “Whatever a man knows, whatever is not mere rumbling and roaring that he has heard, can be said in bad Portuguese.”

  87. David Marjanović says:

    meaning newspaper?

    Meaning “leaf”, including Blatt Papier “sheet of paper”, and therefore traditionally used in the names of more modest newspapers – and in the obsolete but still known terms Käseblatt “very bad newspaper” (“cheese” also means “nonsense”) and Revolverblatt “sensationalist newspaper” (I think).

  88. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    At the beginning of my lecture I said that I couldn’t speak Catalan, but the audience (composed mainly of students) could choose between good English or bad Castilian: they voted overwhelmingly for Castilian.

    This replicated Feynman’s experience teaching in Brazil in 1949-51, where he noticed that he could understand his students’ bad English far better than their Portuguese, and so he carefully wrote out his lectures in bad Portuguese and delivered them that way. He tried having his Portuguese corrected by native speakers, but when he did that, he himself couldn’t understand what he was saying.

    I had read Feynman’s book before that, and his experience was very much in my mind when I gave the Catalan students the choice. I wasn’t, therefore, surprised by their choice, but I thought I should give them the choice.

    More recently I gave a series of lectures in Valdivia, and gave a much smaller group of students the same choice. Catalan wasn’t relevant, of course, and neither was Mapudungún (my Catalan is better than my Mapudungún, but that says almost nothing, as my Mapudungún doesn’t extend beyond three words: mapu, dungún and che). I gave the first lecture in English and the second in Spanish (or vice versa, I don’t remember) and had them choose for the remaining ones. I expected them to prefer Spanish but in fact it was about 55:45 in favour of English. By then (around 2010) my Spanish was a lot better than it had been in 1995.

  89. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    I bet his students also benefited from the clarity Feynman would have gained from having to choose his words carefully and not being able to hide anything behind the rhetorical flourishes that come easily in one’s first language.

    My own experience also. Another thing Feynman said that is very true is that words like conseqüentemente are a lot easier to learn and remember than the ordinary Portuguese for “so”.

  90. Lars Mathiesen says:

    Danish WP was seeded with thousands of articles included wholesale from out-of-copyright encyclopedia (mostly the 1915 edition of Salmonsens Konversationsleksikon, I think) and things like ‘Birds/Beetles/Garden Plants of Denmark’ — probably OCR’ed by Projekt Runeberg, but somebody did the minimal WP markup needed to make articles. Sometimes it’s clear that the text is outdated, but the average size of a gooseberry bush is the same as 100 years ago — and there is a big notice on those pages saying where the text came from and that it should be updated.

    Anyway, that probably explains the head start relative to Turkish.

    So even if all Danes were as comfortable writing English as Danish (and they aren’t), for a lot of Danish history and old generals and ministers and so on there simply isn’t as detailed a source in English to copy, so Danish WP is a better resource for Danish matters.

    Also Runeberg put the 1949 Salmonsen up this year. Probably lots of details about the immediate post-war period. I should go proofread the OCR on a few pages.

  91. AJP Crown says:

    the average size of a [Danish] gooseberry bush is the same as 100 years ago

    An old fart writes:
    Are you sure? I find there’s quite a lot of variation in the size of Norwegian gooseberry bushes.

  92. Lars Mathiesen says:

    Well, I did say average. And that’s why the text usually gives a range instead of an average, but I couldn’t be bothered to find a better example.

  93. Revolverblatt “sensationalist newspaper” (I think).
    You’re correct.

  94. January First-of-May says:

    Meaning “leaf”, including Blatt Papier “sheet of paper”, and therefore traditionally used in the names of more modest newspapers

    Russian листок, and, IIRC, FYLOSC list. Not sure if either of those are calques from German.

  95. David Marjanović says:

    Večernji list is a Croatian newspaper in any case.

    Abendblatt gives 3.350.000 ghits, starting with the Hamburger Abendblatt (a local newspaper I hadn’t heard of).

  96. Trond Engen says:

    Scandinavian blad. Des von Bladet is the self-proclaimed connoiseur of those. Dagblad is part of the name of many daily papers. Uge-/uke-/vekeblad is Danish and Norw. for “magazine”. Swedish has veckotidning.

  97. Or Morgunblaðið.

  98. Lars Mathiesen says:

    I used to work for Aftonbladet and Svenska Dagbladet. At the same time.

  99. David Marjanović: That’s strange. The first time I was in Zagreb, I think in 2002 or so, I asked (in English), for a Croatian newspaper at a newspaper booth (so that I could get an impression of newspaper Croatian) and I was given (with a lot of bewilderment on the part of the seller) an edition of Večernji list. And I was thinking about this just an hour ago, probably prompted by our exchange in the “What Language Did Jesus Speak?” comment thread. I wonder what prompted them to give me an edition of Večernji list, in particular, rather than another newspaper?

  100. PlasticPaddy says:
  101. PlasticPaddy: that is interesting. “Вечерен лист” (Večernji list) is transparent to a Bulgarian speaker. “Ютарен лист”, not that much. It might be related to “юноша” “teenager/adolescent”, which has the distinction of being loaned from Bulgarian to Russian and to Bulgarian again, and makes sense as “morning”. Can you tell me more about the etymology of “Jutarnji”?

  102. Andrej Bjelaković says:

    From Wiktionary:

    junoša and junak are both
    From Proto-Slavic *junъ (“young”)
    From Proto-Balto-Slavic *jauˀnás, from Proto-Indo-European *h₂yéwh₁n-o-s, from *h₂yuh₁en- (“young”).

    Wheras jutro and jutarnji:

    From Proto-Balto-Slavic *aušra (“dawn, morning”), from Proto-Indo-European *h₂ews-ro- (“of the dawn or morning, matutinal; eastern”), from *h₂ews- (“dawn; east”). Baltic cognates include Lithuanian aušrà, dial. auštrà (“dawn”), Latvian àustra, aũstra (“dawn”). Indo-European cognates include Ancient Greek αὔρᾱ (aúrā, “(esp. cool) breeze, fresh air of the morning”), Latin auster (“south wind”), Proto-Germanic *austrą (“east”), Proto-Germanic *Austrǭ (“Easter, springtime; name of a goddess”) (presumably from the goddess of the dawn, lust, fertility and spring, associated with the beginning of the year).

    A variant *jutro appears in West Slavic, Slovenian and Serbo-Croatian, and is also attested in Old Church Slavonic, but considered secondary; there are further Slavic lexemes that display an alternation *ju- in West and South Slavic vs. *u- in East Slavic. Variants with *(j)ustr- point to *ustr- < *usr-,[1] the loss of -s- being either due to dissimilation[2] or perhaps due to the law of open syllables, if the -s- was variably assigned to the end of the first syllable. According to Kortlandt, the acute on the root implies a zero-grade variant (which would have parallels in Sanskrit उस्र (usrá-, “reddish, ruddy, bright, matutinal”), उस्रा (usrā́-, “dawn, morning”)), which, however, is not attested.[3] The intrusive -t- is regular in Proto-Slavic, compare *ostrъ, *strumy.

  103. It’s derived from jutro/јутро ‘morning,’ from Slavic *(j)utro.

  104. Beaten to the punch!

  105. Bulgarian has утро ‘morning,’ but I guess the usual word is сутрин.

  106. “Утро” is also as completely an usual word for “morning” as “сутрин” is. All “утро” implies an earlier time; maybe as the sun comes up.

  107. there should be recourse for a person to correct errors in articles about themselves

    Complicated by the issue of people trying to correct unflattering information about them as “errors”. I wouldn’t trust Roman Polanski as the unequivocal source about his own life, for example.

  108. Lars Mathiesen says:

    But rejecting people’s own statement about their life because it is ‘self-published’ is still silly. Deciding not to quote it because it contradicts virtually all other sources is another matter. (Or maybe quoting it under a Controversy heading).

  109. There’ve been some positive developments in the story, summarized in this Twitter thread that describes a coordinated response from Scots speakers, Wikipedia editors, and the Scots Language Centre.

  110. But rejecting people’s own statement about their life because it is ‘self-published’ is still silly.

    Of course it’s not! People lie a lot and misremember even more, in case you haven’t noticed. If Wikipedia is to be something more than Bullshit Central, statements have to be verifiable, and that means published citations, not “that’s how I remember it.”

  111. None could have been doing that, or they’d far sooner have kicked up a stink about the travesty.

    except, of course, that the situation that tait is describing / hoping for does not exist – which is precisely his point in much of his writing on scots & shaetlan. so scots readers arriving at a hideously bad wikipedia article do not have much (if any) past experience of reading scots expository/analytic prose that’s written much better.

    i have some skepticism about this kind of “Dachsprache” approach, based on what’s happened with yiddish over the 70+ years since the nazi attempted genocide. the YIVO standardization project, which aimed to be exactly that kind of supplementary register (for expository/analytic writing in particular), has been institutionalized into exactly the kind of Académie-Française-model prescriptionist outfit that damages existing dialects, hinders continuity within the language (especially between the new heritage speakers that endangered languages need and their direct and indirect lineages), and has all but severed its linguistic collection to the overwhelming majority of actually existing everyday yiddish speakers. (not only that, but the standards it promotes are very much not neutral or even majoritarian in terms of historic & existing dialects, which kinda sinks it as a Dachsprache, imrho).

    but i’ll leave it to the scots to worry about that, if (as i hope) tait’s approach gains ground and starts to guide practice…

  112. Can you please use the appropriate capital letters next time, rozele? What you’ve written is hard to read.

  113. She chooses not to use capital letters, which is her right. This is Liberty Hall. And seriously, hard to read? Because of a few lowercase letters?

  114. I found it hard to read, so I asked (asked her). But I will defend to my death her right to write how she likes. Or at least to your death. And seriously, you think I have some moral objection to lowercase text?

  115. thaisdon’tusecapitalorsmalllettersorpunctuationorevenspacesbetweenwordsinasentence andsomehowtheymanagetoread

  116. Stu Clayton says:

    Some people prefer breasts over thais.

  117. Is your point that one piece of text is as easy to read as any other, no matter the spacing or caps? I’d say that it probably depends on what you’re used to. If I read Thai every day I expect I’d be able to infer the punctuation and the rest. I also believe serif text is easier to read than sans but if necessary I will sometimes sacrifice a tiny bit in the cause of modernism.

  118. Some people like both or even neither, Stu.

  119. Stu Clayton says:

    I edited my comment to highlight the facetiousness. It depends on what you expect to be close together (thigh words), and what should be allowed to spread apart (English words).

  120. J.W. Brewer says:

    tHis Is libertyh@ll

  121. Rozele,
    How do people who actually teach Yiddish regard YIVO and its standardization? As a respected authority, or as clueless fuddy-duddies? That is, do they have much influence?

    In Israel, the Academy of the Hebrew Language is a factory of prescriptivist dictums and technical terminology, but it has been a magnet for comedians and mockers since before many of its members were born.

  122. @AJP: i mostly use lowercase-only when i’m not writing in a professional context, partly in a completely incomprehensible gesture towards the single-case-ness of the other script i use (the jewish one), and partly because of a wonderful piece that andrea dworkin wrote as an afterword to “Woman Hating”, where she pointed out that her publisher had had no objection to the content of the book – which called, in 1974, for gender transition on demand, “attacked every heterosexual notion of relation”, and “in effect advocated the use of drugs [and] fucking animals” – but drew the line at her lowercase typography. i recommend the whole book, but “The Great Typography Punctuation Struggle” especially. so far, i haven’t seen anything to go against the argument for the importance of form that she makes based on that experience.

    it can be found here: https://www.feministes-radicales.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/Andrea-DWORKIN-Woman-Hating-A-Radical-Look-at-Sexuality-1974.pdf

  123. @Y:

    well, most everyday yiddish speakers don’t know YIVO exists, and don’t much care about it if they do. the yiddish-speaking hasidic world (some hundreds of thousands of people) doesn’t pay a ton of attention to yiddish as such. its press uses a slightly different spelling standardization system (a 1910s version rather than a 1930s one, basically); its dialects continue to evolve without a ton of study, much less attempts at control. as i understand it, yiddish language education in that world is largely limited to ensuring literacy, with grammar teaching being directed almost entirely at (biblical & mishnaic) hebrew and (biblical & talmudic) aramaic.

    in the* other segment of the yiddish world (some tens of thousands of people, i’d guess), almost all yiddish teaching (which is almost all L2, and mainly heritage-language L2) happens through YIVO-trained teachers, or through teachers trained in the broader YIVO mode. there are some exceptions in certain ways (the program at oxford, and then in vilna/vilnius, that dovid katz headed), but they mostly share the overall outlook while opposing YIVO in some meaningful details.

    and that’s really the problem. in the sphere where it has a near-monopoly, YIVO teaches a specific dialect that now has multi-generational cradle-tongue speakers, while insisting that it is a transdialectal Dachsprache and so holding it artificially static (while adding Approved neologisms without flagging them in the classroom). so the folks it teaches are at a steadily increasing distance from mutual comprehensibility with most everyday speakers, who if they have interest in making contact with non-hasidic yiddish spaces are likely to be dismissed there as ‘bad speakers’ (or fetishized as ‘authentic bad speakers’).

    there’s increasing discontent with this situation, at least in my circles, and i’ve got some hopes for change in the future. in particular, the new textbook that asya vaisman schulman just published is the first one to embrace anything like a contemporary language-learning pedagogy, and seems not to be entirely locked into the YIVO-standard dialect or the overall YIVO approach. if, as i hope, it becomes widely used, it may push things in some excitingly new directions. here’s an interview with asya about the new textbook: https://ingeveb.org/blog/interview-with-asya-vaisman-schulman

    *i’m leaving out a meaningful cohort here: yiddish cradle-tongue speakers who aren’t everyday speakers within hasidic communities or connected to the institutional yiddishist world. that’s probably somewhere between tens of thousands and a hundred thousand. i don’t have a sense of their opinions on the language, but many of them live mainly or entirely in other languages (english, russian, french, and israeli being likely the most common)…

  124. So using lower case is basically an assertion of Attitude (with a capital A)…

    Designed for clarity? No. Designed to fight the forces of Mammon (with a capital M)? Maybe. If you don’t like Mammon (with a capital M), why push your book through Mammonistic channels?

    As far as I can see, as long as you’re following English spelling conventions (and Andrea Dworkin did mention “conventions”), using lower case is just making an (annoying) statement. It’s not radical in any way.

    Following a dramatically clearer spelling would be radical. But then who would read her? It’s really hard being a radical…

    And rozele, presumably being a linguist, should see that more clearly than anyone.

  125. Of course it’s everyone’s right to write as they want, but it’s also the reader’s right to get pi$$ed off and stop reading if they find it hard to understand or if it’s too distracting.

    Now the start of my peevery – not directed at rozelle, but at the lower case Latin:
    Modern Latin education in UK advocates the use of not starting a sentence with a capital letter because the Romans didn’t do so. This ignores the fact that
    – in Roman times (whatever that means, presumably the Republic or early Empire) there was no casing, but everything was written in rustic capitals or monumental capitals, not minuscule.
    – when minuscule began to be used together with the majuscule letters it took centuries to establish a convention, but once it was established, it remained constant. The convention is start the sentence with a capital letter. This is still the convention in central Europe, and presumably elsewhere.
    – despite claiming Romans didn’t use cases, names are still written with a capital letter. Sometimes you also seea capital letter at the start of the first sentence of a paragraph – no consistency.
    – Romans did’t use modern punctuation either, but in UK Latin it’s used. Ditto with the u/v distinction (but not i/j) and with macrons over long vowels.

  126. David Marjanović says:

    Following a dramatically clearer spelling would be radical.

    “For some years now I’ve been amusing myself by planning exactly what I would try in the way of “spelling reform” if I woke up one morning and found that the Revolutionary Stalinist–Linguist Party had mounted a coup and appointed me as World Dictator.  Details of my proposal for a Revolting Orthography (modestly titled “Romanised English”) are unlikely ever to become available”

    lower case Latin

    Yeah, I’ve seen that (though probably always with u for v). It’s silly.

    macrons over long vowels

    There is at least precedent for that in the apex.

  127. Speaking of Andrea Dworkin, I remember seeing somewhere an explanation from bell hooks, who claimed that she wrote her name in lower case so as to minimize attention to her identity and thus increase attention to her writings. Which is total b.s., of course, since by writing her name in lower case she is very clearly drawing attention to it as being different from all the other names you see.

  128. As far as I can see, as long as you’re following English spelling conventions (and Andrea Dworkin did mention “conventions”), using lower case is just making an (annoying) statement. It’s not radical in any way.

    Can we please just let her write as she chooses without insulting her? It was ridiculous of Dworkin’s publishers to care so much about her lowercase, and it’s ridiculous to pretend that rozele’s very well informed and interesting comments are illegible or “an assertion of Attitude.” Prescriptivism comes in many flavors, and I don’t like any of them.

  129. Speaking of Andrea Dworkin, I remember seeing somewhere an explanation from bell hooks, who claimed that she wrote her name in lower case so as to minimize attention to her identity and thus increase attention to her writings. Which is total b.s., of course, since by writing her name in lower case she is very clearly drawing attention to it as being different from all the other names you see.

    Perhaps you’d like to make her go by Gloria Jean Watkins, which is her “real” name? She said “To be oppressed means to be deprived of your ability to choose”; I strongly support her ability to choose, and that includes how to name herself.

  130. Thank you, Hat.

    People here are pretty easygoing usually. I don’t understand this typhoon in a teacup. I like capitalization and typographic niceties as much as the next person, but I like a friendly, relaxed atmosphere even more. Long, pointless back-and-forth peevishness festivals bother me.

    (And, speaking as someone who doesn’t text and doesn’t send mail from a phone, I should be the first one to gripe about uncapitalized text, amidst this here’s 374th Final Decline of Western Civilization.)

    (Edit: It seems tactless and ungracious to rail about lowercase, pseudonyms, and missing punctuation in a site run by languagehat.)

  131. No, thank you!

    *bows, retrieves hat as it slips off*

  132. pretend that rozele’s very well informed and interesting comments are illegible or “an assertion of Attitude.”

    Who’s pretending that? Her comments are well-informed and interesting. They are perfectly legible.

    But her decision not to use upper case to start sentences (although it’s used elsewhere) is an Attitude (or, to put it another way, a badge of “nonconformism”), one that she has adopted for her own personal reasons. She is perfectly free to do it, especially as she sees it as a kind a tribute to Andrea Dworkin.

    But just as I find it ridiculous when people say that “people of colour” is better than “coloured people” because it puts “people” first, I found Dworkin’s reasoning for not using upper case silly and trivial. (That is not to say that the attitude of the publisher wasn’t silly and trivial, or that her protest against that was silly or trivial. But her decision to cock a snoot at convention by not capitalising the first letter in a sentence was.)

  133. Ok, I withdraw my comment that “And rozele, presumably being a linguist, should see that more clearly than anyone.” She is free to express herself as she likes.

    Still, I am not going to withdraw my comment that Dworkin was being silly and trivial in rejecting upper case. (Not silly in reacting as she did to her publisher; just silly in selectively rejecting upper case — she still capitalises the first-person pronoun!) If you want to tear down the Establishment, do a proper job of it, don’t just nibble at the very farthest edges of orthographical convention as though it were on the same level as advocating the use of drugs and fucking animals.

  134. Language: it’s ridiculous to pretend that rozele’s very well informed and interesting comments are illegible
    I didn’t say they’re illegible, I said they’re harder for me to read. It’s no huge deal. I realise that while I’m reading, I scan the coming text looking for the sentence breaks. It’s a bit harder to do it fast if you don’t have any caps to catch the eye – periods are too small on their own – but this helps me to hear the text as if it were speech, which in turn makes it quicker to understand. You, Language, can now say there’s no linguistic basis for this, I’ve no idea but I stand by it. And I know that not everyone does it; you hear many Republicans stumbling along reading their speeches word. by. word. during Senate hearings.

    rozele: a wonderful piece that andrea dworkin wrote as an afterword to “Woman Hating”, where she pointed out that her publisher had had no objection to the content of the book – which called, in 1974, for gender transition on demand, “attacked every heterosexual notion of relation”, and “in effect advocated the use of drugs [and] fucking animals” – but drew the line at her lowercase typography. i recommend the whole book, but “The Great Typography Punctuation Struggle” especially.
    I’ll take a look at that. Solidarity. I had no idea there was a political point here; I recognised it only as texting style, which, if I want it to, my own phone will automatically correct after a period without my having to press the shift. I’m sorry for raising the issue and distracting from what you wrote (but on the other hand I wouldn’t have found out about Dwarkin otherwise).

  135. John Cowan says:

    At the beginning of June, the English Spelling Society announced six proposed schemes for English spelling reform out of 35 they had evaluated. One of these uses a non-Latin script closely related to Kingsley Read’s Shavian and Quikspel, so I won’t try to transcribe it here, but these are the rest:

    Lytspel: Tu bee, or not tu bee, dhat is dhe queschen: wedher ’tis noabler in dhe mynd tu sufer dhe slings and arroas ov out’raijuss forchun, or tu taik arms a’genst a see ov trubls and by o’poasing end dhem.

    RichSpel-Long: Too be or not too be, that is the qestshen: wether ’tis noabler in the miend too sufer the slings and arroas of outraijus fortune, or too taik arms against a see of trubels and by opoazing end them.

    RichSpel-Short: Too bè, or not too bè, that iz the qestshen: wether ‘tiz nòbler in the mìnd too sufer the slingz and arròz ov outràjus fortún, or too tàk arms agànst a sè ov trubelz and bì opòzing end them.

    SoundSpel: To be, or not to be, that is th qeschun: whether ’tis noebler in th miend to sufer th slings and arroes of outraejus forchun, or to taek arms agenst a see of trubls and bi opoezing end them.

    Traditional Spelling Revised: To be, or not to be, that is the question: whether ’tis noabler in the mind to suffer the slings and arroes of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of trubles and by oposing end them.

    =====

    I like the last version (by Stephen Linstead) best. Here are some more of his sample sentences marked up as follows: respelled, IRREGULAR, loanwords, special unrespelled groups. These are not part of the spelling system.

    In a cavern in a canyon, excavating for a mine, lived a miner, forty-niner, and HIS daughter Clementine.

    A north cuntry maid down TO London had strayed, altho with her nature it did not agree.

    WITH gloing harts WE see thee rise, THE Troo North strong and free!

    ONCE a jolly swagman camped by a billabong under THE shade OF a coolibah tree.

    THERE is not in THIS wide world a valley so sweet, as THAT vale in WHOSE buusom the bright wauters meet.

    I refuse TO join any club that would HAVE me as a member.

    No man has a guud enuf memmory TO BE a successful lyar.

  136. Do any of these spelling proposals eliminate hints to phonemic distinctions which are lost in the big two standard dialects (RP, Standard American) but which still exist is smaller dialects?

  137. Stephen Linstead made a 23 min film called Black Snow about an 1866 mine disaster in Yorkshire. You can see it free on Vimeo & without any hassle here. “Do it. Do it, while you got t’ chance.” (4:45)

  138. Huh?

    UU for a short sound in “good”
    U for two different sounds – “enuf” v “nature”, and who knows what in “wauters”

  139. I strongly support her ability to choose, and that includes how to name herself.

    I agree entirely. What bugs me is the silly reason she gives for lowercasing herself. It seems like preening to me.

  140. I’m not sure why you consider your personal reaction to it to carry more weight than her own explanation. Would you like your own life choices to be analyzed by random strangers on the internet? Me, I try to take people at their own valuation unless they’ve given me good reason not to do so (for instance, by going into politics).

  141. @Y:

    Do any of these spelling proposals eliminate hints to phonemic distinctions which are lost in the big two standard dialects

    From the Note on Methodology:

    A number of schemes failed to propose spelling changes for words where the changes seemed necessary, and relatively obvious. Examples were:

    * juj judge

    * aje age

    * wosh wash

    * moov move

    * wen when

    That’s confusingly phrased, but I read it as mandating suppression of the Whales-Wales distinction.

    I would be surprised if any of them preserve horse-hoarse or fir-fur-fern either.

  142. All these Disgusteds in Tunbridge Wells going on about lowercase! At a time of real crisis, when donmarquis.org is in a state of ruin and wreckage, most of its links dead or redirected to ads for fake Viagra!

    Here. By a poet reincarnated as a cockroach who couldn’t work the shift key. From an obscenity CENTURY ago.

    i got acquainted with
    a parrot named pete recently
    who is an interesting bird
    pete says he used
    to belong to the fellow
    that ran the mermaid tavern
    in london then i said
    you must have known
    shakespeare know him said pete
    poor mutt i knew him well
    he called me pete and i called him
    bill but why do you say poor mutt
    well said pete bill was a
    disappointed man and was always
    boring his friends about what
    he might have been and done
    if he only had a fair break
    two or three pints of sack
    and sherris and the tears
    would trickle down into his
    beard and his beard would get
    soppy and wilt his collar
    i remember one night when
    bill and ben jonson and
    frankie beaumont
    were sopping it up

    here i am ben says bill
    nothing but a lousy playwright
    and with anything like luck
    in the breaks i might have been
    a fairly decent sonnet writer
    i might have been a poet
    if i had kept away from the theatre
    yes says ben i ve often
    thought of that bill
    but one consolation is
    you are making pretty good money
    out of the theatre

    money money says bill what the hell
    is money what i want is to be
    a poet not a business man
    these damned cheap shows
    i turn out to keep the
    theatre running break my heart
    slap stick comedies and
    blood and thunder tragedies
    and melodramas say i wonder
    if that boy heard you order
    another bottle frankie
    the only compensation is that i get
    a chance now and then
    to stick in a little poetry
    when nobody is looking
    but hells bells that isn t
    what i want to do
    i want to write sonnets and
    songs and spenserian stanzas
    and i might have done it too
    if i hadn t got
    into this frightful show game
    business business business
    grind grind grind
    what a life for a man
    that might have been a poet

    well says frankie beaumont
    why don t you cut it bill
    i can t says bill
    i need the money i ve got
    a family to support down in
    the country well says frankie
    anyhow you write pretty good
    plays bill any mutt can write
    plays for this london public
    says bill if he puts enough
    murder in them what they want
    is kings talking like kings
    never had sense enough to talk
    and stabbings and stranglings
    and fat men making love
    and clowns basting each
    other with clubs and cheap puns
    and off color allusions to all
    the smut of the day oh i know
    what the low brows want
    and i give it to them

    well says ben jonson
    don t blubber into the drink
    brace up like a man
    and quit the rotten business
    i can t i can t says bill
    i ve been at it too long i ve got to
    the place now where i can t
    write anything else
    but this cheap stuff
    i m ashamed to look an honest
    young sonneteer in the face
    i live a hell of a life i do
    the manager hands me some mouldy old
    manuscript and says
    bill here s a plot for you
    this is the third of the month
    by the tenth i want a good
    script out of this that we
    can start rehearsals on
    not too big a cast
    and not too much of your
    damned poetry either
    you know your old
    familiar line of hokum
    they eat up that falstaff stuff
    of yours ring him in again
    and give them a good ghost
    or two and remember we gotta
    have something dick burbage can get
    his teeth into and be sure
    and stick in a speech
    somewhere the queen will take
    for a personal compliment and if
    you get in a line or two somewhere
    about the honest english yeoman
    it s always good stuff
    and it s a pretty good stunt
    bill to have the heavy villain
    a moor or a dago or a jew
    or something like that and say
    i want another
    comic welshman in this
    but i don t need to tell
    you bill you know this game
    just some of your ordinary
    hokum and maybe you could
    kill a little kid or two a prince
    or something they like
    a little pathos along with
    the dirt now you better see burbage
    tonight and see what he wants
    in that part oh says bill
    to think i am
    debasing my talents with junk
    like that oh god what i wanted
    was to be a poet
    and write sonnet serials
    like a gentleman should

    well says i pete
    bill s plays are highly
    esteemed to this day
    is that so says pete
    poor mutt little he would
    care what poor bill wanted
    was to be a poet

    archy

  143. God, I love archy and mehitabel — thanks for that!

    i look back on my life
    and it seems to me to be
    just one damned kitten
    after another

  144. PlasticPaddy says:

    @Y, mollymooly
    Is it the objective of spelling reform to preserve some maximal set of phoneme distinctions? I think an optimised set might be better, say for the vowels
    A-ae,ah,ay
    E-e, ee
    I-i, ih
    O-o,oh
    U-u,oo,uh
    with diphthongs ou and oi
    So
    Our fahther
    in hevun
    haelohd bee thih naym
    on urth etc
    People will pronounce the way they always do, but learning to write might be easier….

  145. J.W. Brewer says:

    Writing in a proposed reformed spelling that has yet to be widely adopted is more or less the same thing as writing at variance from currently-standard conventions (for the particular context/genre) of capitalization/punctuation/etc. It predictably imposes additional costs and cognitive burdens on your readers. Maybe it provides benefits to your readers as well (because of forcing them to pay more conscious attention to things they would otherwise process subconciously/automatically — poetry is a context where maybe some readers are actively in the market for this); maybe it provides benefits to you in terms of how you wish to express yourself. But if some portion of your potential readers decide to tune you out because they frankly aren’t willing to assume that what you have to say is likely to prove worth the additional work necessary to read it, and/or because they view you as being arrogant or discourteous, you shouldn’t be surprised and do not have particularly good grounds to be offended. You are violating something akin to Grice’s “Cooperative Principle” for conversations, and the fact that you may plausibly believe your violation to be justified on balance under the circumstances does not require anyone else to agree with you about that.

  146. But if some portion of your potential readers decide to tune you out because they frankly aren’t willing to assume that what you have to say is likely to prove worth the additional work necessary to read it, and/or because they view you as being arrogant or discourteous, you shouldn’t be surprised and do not have particularly good grounds to be offended.

    I am quite certain that people who choose not to capitalize, especially those mentioned or instantiated here, are neither surprised nor offended by predictable hot takes. Amazingly, they have other values than trying to make sure they don’t subject anyone to additional work.

  147. I’m not sure why you consider your personal reaction to it to carry more weight than her own explanation.

    Because, Sir, it is humbug, and I call it as I see it.

    Yrs, Disgusted etc

  148. J.W. Brewer says:

    I’m not talking about “predictable hot takes,” I’m talking about people who just silently decide that they have better things to do with their time than spend it on writers who reveal that particular ranking of values. This is perhaps a sadder outcome for the writer than the predictable satisfaction of having stirred up condemnation from Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells, more like the pathos of “You set out to outrage / But you can’t get arrested.”

  149. I know a few Russians who write their blog comments in old Tsarist orthography.

    Quite what point they were trying to make wasn’t really clear to me (for religious or nationalistic reasons probably, in one case it was an unhappy linguist) and of course they encounter a lot of reactions similar to what is happening here.

    Not from me, though, I’ve read hundreds of books in old orthography, a few blog comments is nothing.

  150. I’m not talking about “predictable hot takes,” I’m talking about people who just silently decide that they have better things to do with their time than spend it on writers who reveal that particular ranking of values.

    But a) that “ranking of values” is your own invention, and b) it is in fact a predictable hot take, as can be seen from the reactions in this very thread, none of which rise to a more penetrating level than “I don’t like it.” And again, I’m pretty sure the writer doesn’t much care. If they did, they would write in the standard way. They are not a idiot.

  151. And (as Y intimated above) this entire blog is in violation of the idea that everyone should write with maximum predictability so as not to cause anyone to be discomfited or confused. I’m sure plenty of people have silently decided that they have better things to do with their time than spend it on a blog that keeps banging on about Russian or obscure references, and I am not saddened by it.

  152. J.W. Brewer says:

    SFReader: Are there still people alive who grew up in ancestrally-Russian families of the post-1917 diaspora who would as children have been taught that orthography rather than the more recent Soviet standard, or even in those circles would they have had to master it later on as something of a conscious affectation?

  153. In the spelling reform examples I’m assuming a’genst and agenst don’t represent the same pronunciation as against and agànst, but dialectal variations like that wouldn’t be any more of a problem than -or versus -our, which would go away.

  154. J.W. Brewer says:

    hat: By “ranking of values” I was just trying to pick up on your statement re “they have other values.” Those “other values” may include unwillingness to make trade-offs that would subordinate their own authorly self-conception to more effective communication with readers. Perhaps they don’t want to make that tradeoff because, as you say, they “do[]n’t much care” about prospective readers unwilling to invest additional effort to figure out what they’re trying to say. So be it. And in other contexts, I understand the “I don’t want your attention if you’re not cool or devoted enough to put in the extra effort” pitch; I certainly like punk rock and free jazz and other sorts of things that in part appeal to that impulse to dig the thing that the squares find confusing or offputting.

    I do think, fwiw, that most (not all) frequent commenters on this specific blog generally write in a fashion calculated to minimize unnecessary discomfort or confusion, at least for those readers familiar enough with the context/background (so that e.g. they don’t need the Kusaal/Eddyshaw nexus specifically explained to them).

  155. And in other contexts, I understand the “I don’t want your attention if you’re not cool or devoted enough to put in the extra effort” pitch; I certainly like punk rock and free jazz and other sorts of things that in part appeal to that impulse to dig the thing that the squares find confusing or offputting.

    Exactly, which is why I find your attitude toward this minor infraction so odd. “Shrieking tuneless saxes are cool, but lowercase letters…”

  156. And I might point out that lots of comments have been made over the years by people for whom English is not a native language, and nobody jibs at them and tells them to come back when they can write proper. (It is, after all, their choice not to learn the language perfectly.)

    [Edited to add clarification: that parenthetical “It is, after all, their choice not to learn the language perfectly” is not, of course, me speaking in propria persona but a piece of idiocy placed in the hypothetical mouth of someone who would tell them to come back when they can write proper. Had I not been so irritated, I might better have written “claiming it was their choice not to learn the language perfectly.”]

  157. Trond Engen says:

    Some of us may learn it imperfectly for other reasons than choice.

    This mildly excited discussion of what everybody agrees is not much of an issue will probably smoothen out. But it might be an idea to agree to find something to eat before making the next comment.

  158. David Marjanović says:

    and who knows what in “wauters”

    Waters has the THOUGHT vowel.

    write in a fashion calculated to minimize unnecessary discomfort or confusion

    That’s what I base my style comments on when I peer-review a manuscript: scientific topics are already difficult, so avoid anything that would slow the readers down beyond that.

    (Lack of uppercase in English doesn’t seem to slow me down, though. It just makes the beginnings of sentences sound shy.)

    (…in German it’s another matter. Famous examples that I’ve mentioned before:
    Ausländer, die deutschen Boden verkaufen
    “foreigners who sell German soil”
    Ausländer, die Deutschen Boden verkaufen
    “foreigners who sell real estate to Germans”
    Helft den armen Vögeln!
    “Help the poor birds!”
    Helft den Armen vögeln!
    “Help the poor to boink!”)

  159. Are there still people alive who grew up in ancestrally-Russian families of the post-1917 diaspora who would as children have been taught that orthography

    First Russian emigration assimilated into Western society long time ago. No, the people who are so attached to old orthography in online comments are Russians who grew up in the Soviet Union.

    Their reasons never really made any sense to me.

    Religious objections to current orthography involve Russian prefix “bes” (roughly equivalent to English -less. Eg, bespolezny – useless, besstrashny – fearless).

    You see, it is claimed that current spelling introduced by godless Bolsheviks evokes in such words this creature https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bies

    So, of course, it’s a Satanic thing and no true Christian should use it.

  160. J.W. Brewer says:

    Well, put it this way. I like my skronky free jazz albums to have been well-recorded when it comes to issues like microphone placement, balancing the different instruments in the mix, etc. In the punk-rock context, Walter Lure, who had been the last survivor of the Heartbreakers lineup that recorded the L.A.M.F. album, died last month. Pretty much everyone thinks that the mix of that album sucks, that the various subsequent attempts to remix it haven’t succeeded either, and that the lousy mix is not cool or reflective of a properly punk attitude but just unfortunate. It does not enhance a “loose” or “spontaneous” or “authentic because not uptight about technical perfection” ambiance, it just makes it harder to appreciate the results of that ambiance and is frustrating because gratuitous and unnecessary.

    But in any event, a performance is not a conversation, and a blog comment thread that is simply an anthology of individual performances rather than a conversation is imho suboptimal.

  161. Well, put it this way. I like my skronky free jazz albums to have been well-recorded when it comes to issues like microphone placement, balancing the different instruments in the mix, etc.

    Huh! I wonder how many people have that particular mix? Not that there’s anything wrong with it, of course, but appreciation of punk tends to go along with indifference to technical niceties. Me, I love LAMF, and I wouldn’t trade it for a dozen impeccably recorded albums by, say, Mink DeVille. But I respect your preferences!

  162. Some of us may learn it imperfectly for other reasons than choice.

    Of course. I thought it was clear that I wasn’t mocking non-native speakers but the people who complain about imperfection.

  163. Trond Engen says:

    It was clear. I was trying to add another layer of irrelevancy.

  164. Oh! The more layers of irrelevancy, the better.

  165. David Marjanović says:

    Russian prefix “bes”

    That is, it used to be written uniformly bez, like the word “without”, and the reformed spelling spells out the devoicing when a voiceless consonant follows; in so doing, it proves that Q was right all along and the Soviets are of the devil, which apparently they felt they had to advertize somehow.

  166. (To spell it out for the Russianless: бес [bes] is a Russian word for ‘devil.’)

  167. J.W. Brewer says:

    I would have thought that there was already more than sufficient evidence tending to suggest that the Soviet regime was of the devil without that particular subtle signal, but I may just not have the right temperament to appreciate a certain style of argumentation.

  168. David Eddyshaw says:

    (To spell it out for the Russianless: бес [bes] is a Russian word for ‘devil.’)

    I’d just assumed that all spelling reform is naturally evil.

  169. Well, that goes without saying.

  170. i do adore don marquis’ work!

    and had a chance to see “archy & mehitabel” / “shinbone alley” staged a few years ago… (probably the only show to have starred eartha kitt and carol channing in the same role)

  171. I envy you!

  172. David Marjanović says:

    I may just not have the right temperament to appreciate a certain style of argumentation

    If you can’t find 666 in it, that means you… just have to look harder. It’s got to be somewhere.

  173. “There is at least precedent for that in the apex”

    True dat. Apex, however, is visually similar to the acute accent (except for I+apex, which is manifested as the I longa). On the other hand, the macron, or rather a horizontal line over the character, was sometimes used in ancient inscriptions to indicate numerals eg in IIIVIR, for triumvir.
    And when it comes to numerals, UK Latin also tends to put them into lower case.

    Now it’s all fine & dandy if that’s how they want to teach Latin to kids, but don’t justify it on the basis that it’s how the Romans wrote.

    I wonder who the bright spark was, who decided that sentences shouldn’t start with a capital letter because Romans didn’t have capital letters?

    Come to think of it, “Reading Greek” similarly doesn’t capitalise the first letter of a sentence. My edition is from 1992, Joint Association of Classical Teachers, Cambridge.

  174. e. e. cummings was another one who didn’t like capital letters.

  175. J.W. Brewer says:

    In his published prose, as opposed to poetry, [C/c]ummings generally followed conventional capitalization norms. So e.g., his “six nonlectures” is lowercased on the cover to draw in the suckers aware of his reputation, but the actual text inside includes capital letters where you’d expect them from a conventional writer, although he does have an idiosyncratic aversion to hyphens and thus throws out lots of jammedtogether lexemes like “longlost” or “socalled” that seem a little bit off.

  176. A fond bow to the wonderful and charming ruth weiss, who left us several weeks ago.

  177. Despite the storm in a teacup, I hope that rozele continues to post interesting comments here.

  178. E. E. Cummings also capitalized his own name, even though it is nowadays usually erroneously printed lower case. In my favorite Cummings poem, he actually capitalized all the proper nouns, although there are plenty of other works in which he did not. He also tended, in his poetry, to omit spaces after punctuation.

  179. David Eddyshaw says:

    I hope that rozele continues to post interesting comments here

    Seconded. I hope rosza (elder sibling, one supposes) does too.

    Incidentally, everything is acceptable when it comes to capitalisation; except caMelcaSe, of course. One has to draw the line somewhere.

  180. “except caMelcaSe”

    What about capitalising the letters C, D, I, L, M, V, X on title pages so that you get the year of publication by adding the Roman numerals?

    eg. this one:
    https://www.google.com.au/books/edition/Croatia_Rediviva_Regnante_LeopoLDo_Magno/a1ZZAAAAcAAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&dq=leopoldo+magno&pg=PP3&printsec=frontcover

  181. “For some years now I’ve been amusing myself by planning exactly what I would try”

    I’d vote in favour of replacing ph with f, ch with k (where appropriate) and regularising some of the gh spellings.

    “Waters has the THOUGHT vowel.”

    In Australian, water is wɔtǝ, or in rapid speech, wɔdǝ. If you want to “order the water for a porter” you’d say ɔdǝ ðǝwɔdǝ fɔɹǝ pɔtǝ. Makes more sense to spell ɔ with O. I wouldn’t vote for spelling ɔ with AU. Might work in North America and in Ireland, but would confuse things here in Australia.

  182. @languagehat: i just happened to be in the right place (martha’s vineyard, oddly enough) at the right time! no channing or kitt, but a lovely little production.

    @Bathrobe & David: i’m enough of a usenet survivor (and have lurked through enough set-tos in this lovely establishment) that i’m not likely to get scared off over typography… & thanks!

  183. @ Brett,

    [Cummings] also tended, in his poetry, to omit spaces after punctuation:

    Also in much of his prose, though editors tended to conventionalize that. Compare the printed typescript edition of The Enormous Room with the earlier editions. And the body of correspondence in which Cummings and Pound spurred each other to greater and greater unrestraint is as good a demonstration as any I know that the distinction between prose and verse is little more than an arbitrary convention.

    About which,

    (1) Of course read Cummings. Why not? But really, Apollinaire . . .

    https://fr.wikisource.org/wiki/Mon_tr%C3%A8s_cher_petit_Lou

    (2) A source (maybe “pretext” would be a better word) for Pound’s experiments in prosody was Ernest Fenollosa’s unfinished essay “The Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry,” which Pound completed after Fenollosa’s death. To see what he did with it, read chapter 1 of ABC of Reading, online at

    https://monoskop.org/images/a/a4/Pound_Ezra_ABC_of_Reading.pdf

    And yesyes, those of you who read Chinese will protest, “But this is just etymology! I no more think about the pictures when I see a Chinese character than I think about astrology when I see the English word ‘consider’!” You’ll be right, too. But if you step up to the barre with a copy of ABC of Reading tucked into your leotard and do some of its exercises, your reading will get more flexible and more powerful and you’ll begin noticing that there’s no such thing as “just” etymology, and uppercase and lowercase have distinguishable beauties. Consider Apollinaire comparing his Lou’s D- and L- body parts.

  184. I started reading rozele’s andrea dworkin link upthread and came to her mention of Ellen Frankfort’s 1972 book Vaginal Politics. Here’s an interview with Ellen Frankfort from that time. You get feeling for how things have & haven’t changed since. I knew her, I stayed at her apt on W9th Street for a week the first time I visited America, in 1974 (while Nixon was resigning). She was an amazing, very smart person; she never stopped talking from the minute she entered a room, as in the clip, and it was always worth hearing. She killed herself in 1987 (her twin sister had done the same) and you never hear about her nowadays, which is a great shame.

  185. Thanks for that video, she’s quite a vivacious speaker. I always wanted to read her book The Voice: Life at the Village Voice (brief description here), but never got around to it. (She’d left the Voice by the time I started reading it.)

  186. Since we’ve been talking about big and little letters, I’ll just throw this in here:

    I am against bigness and greatness in all their forms, and with the invisible molecular moral forces that work from individual to individual, stealing in through the crannies of the world like so many soft rootlets, or like the capillary oozing of water, and yet rending the hardest monuments of man’s pride, if you give them time. The bigger the unit you deal with, the hollower, the more brutal, the more mendacious is the life displayed. So I am against all big organizations as such, national ones first and foremost; against all big successes and big results; and in favor of the eternal forces of truth which always work in the individual and immediately unsuccessful way, under-dogs always, till history comes, after they are long dead, and puts them on top.—You need take no notice of these ebullitions of spleen, which are probably quite unintelligible to anyone but myself.

      –William James, letter to Mrs. Henry Whitman (June 7, 1899)

  187. David Marjanović says:

    In Australian

    …What vowel do caught and automobile have, then? An [o] distinct from [ɔ]?

    In (southeastern) England, all of your examples and the above have a vowel that is traditionally transcribed as [ɔ], which it probably was in early-20th-c RP, but is now approaching [o] in the more prestigious accents and has reached it in the others (while LOT, traditionally transcribed [ɒ], is back up to [ɔ]).

  188. Vivacious, and an ideal dinner guest who would initiate long excited discussions, interesting ones with gossip (my father-in-law was a radical doc, that’s how I knew her). She hoped her Voice book would be much more popular than it turned out to be; some people suspected (unfairly) her motive for writing it, thought she was just bitter. I enjoyed reading it at the time but I was too nouveau New York to take in all the stuff about Dan Wolf and the rest, I mostly remember she wasn’t very keen on Alexander Cockburn. She was a great person to ask about feminism, you could say ”Ellen, what do you think of Germaine Greer?” and – while we were walking down Eighth Street, in this case – she’d give an insightful book-review-length opinion on her appeal. I saw her right before she died, at a party at Flo Kennedy’s apt (another of my father-in-law’s friends), she was married to a big good-looking young fireman in Sag Harbor and was writing; she ought to have been happy but she’d just tried to kill herself and was sedated by Lithium or antidepressants or something. Maybe a month or two later she succeeded, poor dear.

  189. “What vowel do caught and automobile have”

    kɔt, ɔtǝmǝbil

    ought is ɔt, aught is also ɔt, caulk is kɔk

    …all per the Macquarie Dictionary.

    If things in England are as you mentioned, then it makes more sense to spell o with O rather than with AU. But then, when did English spelling ever make sense.

  190. I’d have thought that among Americans who don’t merge cot and caught (a slight majority still?), water usually goes with cot, but maybe I’m wrong.

  191. I say wauter (and I don’t have the merger).

  192. I would say “caMelcaSe” is not CamelCase but rather pSeuDOraNdomcAse

  193. John Cowan says:

    caMelcaSe

    That, of course is neither UpperCamelCase nor lowerCamelCase, but pErveRsIon. There are also snake_case and SCREAMING_SNAKE_CASE, as well as kebab-case, which I like best but can’t be used in programming languages that foolishly allow you to write a-b instead of a – b as God and Gutenberg intended. Or of course (- a b) in Cambridge Polish, as der lieber McCarthy intended (“Die Consen und die Fixnumen hat der lieber McCarthy gemacht; alles andere ist Hackerwerk”).

    lots of jammedtogether lexemes

    Nick Nicholas used to write “noone”, but now has switched to “nöone”. At first I thought the former must be an Australianism.

    If Wikipedia is to be something more than Bullshit Central, statements have to be verifiable

    The trouble is that plenty of false statements are easily verifiable, and from extremely reputable sources too. There is also a tendency to rely on sources that are 95 years old or older, since they are in the U.S. public domain and often freely available on line, that makes the problem even worse. Crowdsourcing is a good, but inferior, substitute for expertise.

    but the standards [YIVO] promotes are very much not neutral or even majoritarian in terms of historic & existing dialects, which kinda sinks it as a Dachsprache, imrho

    In most cases the Dachsprache is the historic speech of the capital, which is generally neither neutral nor majoritarian, simply the most prestigious. Of course Jews have never had a capital, not even Mokum Alef (until Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, of course).

    thaisdon’tusecapitalorsmallletters[…]

    And yet they insist that a line break appear only between words (unlike the Chinese, who have very few restrictions, mostly things like not having a left paren at the end of a line or a right paren at the beginning). The logic that breaks a single long sentence into multiple physical lines on a computer screen or printed page is trivial in most languages (look for the spaces and hyphens), but requires full-on natural language processing for Thai.

    The convention is start the sentence with a capital letter. This is still the convention in central Europe, and presumably elsewhere.

    Indeed, everywhere I know of, which is quite a lot. Loglan and Lojban originally took a purist view: lower-case English-alphabet letters only, with upper case vowels used to mark irregular stress in names. This was in the name of an exact isomorphism between speaking and writing, so that from the letters alone (not even spaces are phonemic, though people don’t usually write without them) not only the sound but the meaning was fully available, perfectly Dworkinian.

    Loglan has gone back to standard conventions in this respect, but Lojban has not. Writing sentences like e’o ko sarji la lojban. (where the period and apostrophe are not punctuation marks but part of the alphabet) has become part of Lojbanists’ strong conventions for writing Lojban. Writing *E’o ko sarji la Lojban would be condemned as improper, though you would not be burned at the stake for it.

    Which is total b.s., of course

    The manifestos of an artist (still more of an artistic Movement) are generally exactly contrary to their practice.

    “people of colour” is better than “coloured people”

    Of course, “people of color” is better than either, because the distinction between “-our” and “-or” is absurd and not worth having.

    UU for a short sound in “good”

    Since that was a point specifically made in the instructions, all six successful proposals went along with it. It’s certainly better than gud, rhymes with dud. I think it would be better to add (possibly unhistoric) -e to monosyllables with “long oo”, such as boote, moone, foole.

    you shouldn’t be surprised and do not have particularly good grounds to be offended

    Dworkin’s complaint isn’t against readers who would throw the book into the fireplace because of this, but against the publisher who presumed that they would, particularly the subset of readers who write book reviews. He was, of course, right in his own terms (selling more books), and she didn’t deny that.

    write their blog comments in old Tsarist orthography

    I wonder if they get their yats in the right places. It was hard enough for old Tsarists themselves, who had to memorize long lists of words, clued in only by the fact that yat doesn’t alternate with ë.

    -or versus -our, which would go away

    Axel Wijk, who had the advantage of detachment gained by being a Swede of Dutch ancestry, thought that this distinction, along with the -re/-er distinction, should be kept, as a great deal of national feeling is bound up in it. In general, most reformers are unwilling to touch vowel reduction in unstressed syllables and figure the vowels written there might as well be left alone: Wijk proposed (and I agree) that reduced diphthongs ought to be changed as the most misleading, as in captain, bargain, which looks like they should be pronounced like retain, detain: changing them to capten, bargen would be clearer.

    most (not all) frequent commenters on this specific blog generally write in a fashion calculated to minimize unnecessary discomfort or confusion

    As far as spelling and punctuation, that’s mostly true. I know that not all of us are so comfortable with IPA or linguistic jargon, though; certainly Hat himself uses far less of it than I do (say).

    Shrieking tuneless saxes are cool, but lowercase letters…

    Well, but we don’t consume the saxes or the poetry in order to directly extract meaning from it. “The artist says what cannot be said in words, and the poet does this with words.”

    In Australian, water is wɔtǝ

    So it is everywhere, except among the THOUGHT=PALM folks in western N.A. The question is, if you chop the last syllable off water, do you get something that rhymes with thought, taut, juggernaut?

    [Cummings] also [eschewed capitals] in much of his prose, though editors tended to conventionalize that.

    So they would, on good anti-Dworkinian principles. You don’t edit Picasso, but you do edit Kerouac.

    Is it the objective of spelling reform to preserve some maximal set of phoneme distinctions?

    It depends on the reformer. Most systems, including the one I invented at age 12 or so, reflect the phoneme inventory and distribution of the inventor, most notably the one invented by an aged Brooklynite who writes th as d, since after all they are pronounced the same! Mine made no distinction between the LOT vowel and the PALM vowel or between the STRUT vowel and schwa, since there is none in my accent. In fact, it fit into the current 26-letter alphabet (repurposing “c”, “q”, and “x” for “ch” and the two sounds written “th”) plus an acute accent on vowels to mark “length”.

    But later I came to think that it is much better for Jack to wonder “Hmm, is it spelled theft or feft?”, which Jack can learn even though he pronounces them the same, than for Alice to have to figure out that by laud Jack means lord, which don’t sound the same at all to her. We happen to be at a good point in the history of English for spelling reform on this principle, because there are many mergers but few splits (the lad-bad split is probably the biggest one) from the 14C pronounciation that our current orthography reflects.

    So at the very worst we could write English with 24 consonant letters and symbols for the 36 vowels and diphthongs of the Revised Wells/Mills/Cowan/Rosta Really Universal, Dammit, This Time, Lexical Sets[*], and everyone would be able to read off every word in their own accent without error; learning to spell would be harder, and we’d need a new alphabet song. There would even be an answer to the kid’s question “But why are these two words spelled differently?”, namely “Because people in other places pronounce them differently and need different spellings for them.”

    But looked at from that perspective (“spelling can be hard as long as reading is easy”), the traditional orthography isn’t so bad: it contains all the information we need, it’s just that some of it is misleading: one is spelled like its derived forms only and alone, but pronounced very differently. If we clean up the irregularities, we get a system that is complex but comprehensible, like written French. (We may choose to preserve a few irregularities in very common words like of rather than changing it to uv, though.)

    [*] KIT, DRESS, TRAP, BAD, LOT, STRUT, FOOT, BATH, DANCE, CLOTH, NURSE, TERM, DIRT, FLEECE, BEAM, FACE, TRAIL, FREIGHT, PALM, THOUGHT, GOAT, SNOW, GOOSE, THREW, PRICE, CHOICE, MOUTH, NEAR, SQUARE, START, NORTH, FORCE, CURE, happY, lettER, commA. You can fingerprint your accent by figuring out which ones you merge: for me it’s TRAP=BAD=BATH=DANCE, LOT=PALM, STRUT=commA, CLOTH=THOUGHT, NURSE=TERM=DIRT=lettER, FLEECE=BEAM=happY, FACE=TRAIL=FREIGHT, GOAT=SNOW, and GOOSE=THREW; plus NEAR = FLEECE + /r/, SQUARE = FACE + /r/, START = PALM + /r/, NORTH = FORCE = THOUGHT + /r/, and CURE = GOOSE + /r/. Note that for fingerprint purposes it doesn’t matter exactly how you pronounce these words; it matters only if the vowels are the same or different; sometimes superficially very different accents can have the same fingerprint.

  194. The trouble is that plenty of false statements are easily verifiable, and from extremely reputable sources too.

    No, the trouble is that it is literally impossible to separate true from false statements, so that objection fails. The point is that it is better to depend on published sources, which can be corrected as needed, than on obiter dicta, which cannot.

  195. I mean, if you seriously think it would be okay to accept the word of (say) a politician who says “I know I never did that, so I’m deleting the statement,” I won’t try to convince you otherwise, but I’m glad Wikipedia doesn’t share your trusting sentiments.

  196. So it is everywhere, except among the THOUGHT=PALM folks in western N.A. The question is, if you chop the last syllable off water, do you get something that rhymes with thought, taut, juggernaut?

    I guess I haven’t been paying enough attention to how other people are saying water, but I doubt I am the only person without the merger for whom water sounds like watt, and Merriam-Webster does list that as the second pronunciation.

  197. J.W. Brewer says:

    I am unmerged and my first-syllable-of-water rhymes with caught rather than cot. If I had a more authentically/distinctively regional accent than I do (for the region where I grew up, not for where I live now), however, it would break out of that dichotomy, because in the Delaware Valley water is characteristically “wooder,” with the FOOT vowel.

  198. David Marjanović says:

    STRUT=commA

    That is, they’re the stressed and the unstressed allophone of the same phoneme for you. I strongly doubt you actually pronounce them the same, or that pretty much anyone outside of Wales does.

    Similar things hold for most of the rhotic sets.

  199. Well, sure. I might enunciate start with almost any vowel height as long as it remains central. What is more, if it is low it can have almost any frontness. In that inverted-T-shaped part of the vowel diagram it has no competition, which is why phonology is not phonetics. I was going to add a disclaimer about calling vowels “the same”, but forgot. But I do think strut and comma have the same vowel within the limits of my ear; waveforms might disagree.

    A general apology to all for overgeneralizing about water. And for an episode of public logorrhea.

  200. Cowan I enjoyed your long post.
    “if you chop the last syllable off water, do you get something that rhymes with thought, taut, juggernaut”

    Per the Macquarie Dictionary:
    – thought is θɔt, taut is tɔt, juggernaut is dʒʌgənɔt
    it depends on what you mean by chopping off the last syllable, because
    – wat (as in Angkor Wat), Watt & what are all wɒt
    – but wart is wɔt and ward is wɔd

    In my speech there is a length distinction as well as a distinction in vowel quality: ɔ is long and ɒ is short.

  201. Yes, no need to apologize for logorrhea around these parts. Let the words flow!

  202. STRUT/COMMA: When I say ‘abut’ I am pretty sure there is a difference between the two vowels — they come from different places in my mouth and the shape of my lips as I say them is not the same.

  203. I doubt I am the only person without the merger for whom water sounds like watt

    Here’s another one.

  204. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    Cowan I enjoyed your long post.

    Me too.

  205. Andrej Bjelaković says:

    It’s worth pointing out that, even for speakers for whom the final schwa in “comma” does sound like their stressed STRUT, their other schwas probably sound different (like in *a*bout or Lenn*o*n or m*o*rality).

    Relatedly, Roger Lass had a nice chapter called On Schwa: Synchronic Prelude and Historical Fugue in Minkova 2009..

  206. Roger Lass! Loved his phonetics course at IU, lo, this nearly half a century ago. He was the only member of the IU linguistics department who wasn’t a Chomskyhole. Also he was a wonderful person. It’s no wonder they ran him off to ZA.

  207. STRUT/COMMA: When I say ‘abut’ I am pretty sure there is a difference between the two vowels — they come from different places in my mouth and the shape of my lips as I say them is not the same.

    I believe you. But for me it is otherwise.

    their other schwas probably sound different (like in *a*bout or Lenn*o*n or m*o*rality)

    For me they are all the same. I also have the abbot/rabbit (or Rosas/roses) merger, so those are all the same too. In short: only one reduced vowel around this vocal tract, at least in English.

  208. I saw somewhere in P. G. Wodehouse “rabbut” for “rabbit”. I’ve no idea what it implies.

  209. To say rabbit in an unspecified rural English accent that you might find in Wodehouse you’d likely end with schwaless /ʌt/, at least in my head, whereas RP, Cockney or drawling upper-class would all be schwaless /ɪt/.

    I sometimes wish English speakers would make more of an effort to use proper vowels instead of schwas, like Marty Wayne on WNYC in New York who always said amboo-LANCE. Spelling is so much easier in other European languages and it opens all sorts of options, none of which I can think of right now.

  210. David Marjanović says:

    I’ve no idea what it implies.

    Precisely [edit: or perhaps not precisely] the abbot/rabbit merger, because in and around RP rabbit has a more or less unreduced KIT vowel in its second syllable.

    Or it could be a typo. U and I are right next to each other on all the most common keyboard layouts.

    (…that came out wrong.)

    more of an effort to use proper vowels instead of schwas

    Or you could come up with a consistent spelling for schwa. Put ə on the keyboard.

  211. We don’t have an abbot/rabbit merger in RP, David.

  212. a consistent spelling for schwa

    Isn’t it always schwa?

  213. PlasticPaddy says:

    @ajp
    I think the b in rabbit may also be slightly palatalised in Ireland (the t definitely is palatalised, I think Welsh also do this).

  214. David Marjanović says:

    We don’t have an abbot/rabbit merger in RP, David.

    That’s my point: that’s why Wodehouse was able to use the spelling with u to indicate that merger. As I said: “in and around RP rabbit has a more or less unreduced KIT vowel in its second syllable.”

  215. Aha, gotcha.

  216. The quote is, “It is like that song of Harry Lauder’s where he’s waiting for the girl and says ‘This is her-r-r. No, it’s a rabbut.’” It’s from The Metropolitan Touch, a Jeeves and Wooster story.

    Harry Lauder was Scottish, and grew up in Edinburgh. The r-r-r must refer to his trilled r. I can’t find that particular song.

  217. Andrej Bjelaković says:

    Then the u in rabbut is meant to represent the Scottish centralized KIT?

  218. PlasticPaddy says:

    @Y
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=R78JzCfAMj4
    i love a lassie-comment at the end by singer (not lyric) in this 1907 recording.

  219. David Marjanović says:

    Then the u in rabbut is meant to represent the Scottish centralized KIT?

    Probably.

  220. At about 2:56 on Paddy’s recording. So Harry Lauder’s “I think this is her. No it’s a rabbit” is a pun about hare & rabbit, I suppose.

  221. The laughter is a little unnerving. Did he chop her up and turn her into haggis?

  222. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    My mother, who was Irish, had ə in words like rabbət. Her sister-in-law, my aunt, used to imitate her saying “the pockət on this jackət is crookət”. I was totally unable to hear her Irish accent until I started talking to her on the phone from Oxford.

  223. Via a Wodehouse annotations site, more on Harry Lauder from 50 Records That Matter, 1900-1919:

    There was immense pressure, social as well as financial, for everyone working in entertainment to inhabit broad stereotypes and play them as cartoonishly as possible. (Except, of course, for the Standard White American. Though thinking of Jack Norworth, that line could start to seem pretty dull by comparison.) Harry Lauder was the biggest Scottish comedian in the world — far more popular than Billy Connolly, for example, ever would be — and American audiences loved him as much as British. (Like every comedian worthy of the name, he had many different characters and routines; but it was the broad-spoken, tartan-wearing “laird” that everyone wanted to see.) “I Love A Lassie” was his signature song, and in this early recording incorporates a signature bit of business (so popular as to be quoted by P. G. Wodehouse in The Inimitable Jeeves), where he thinks his love is coming round the bend, but “no . . . it’s a rabbut.”

  224. Wodehouse refers to I Love a Lassie elsewhere, in The Story of George, the first of the Mulliner stories. The context is absurd and daft, which is what they are all about.

    Thanks for the recording link!

  225. From the world of scholarship to the world at large: the story about Scots Wikipedia has made it into the syndicated newspaper column News of the Weird, along with an item about a woman who assaulted her father, leaving him with a badly scratched face, because he was flatulent.

    https://www.uexpress.com/news-of-the-weird/2020/9/4

  226. From the second story at that link:

    Officials in Amsterdam have installed 12 hemp-filled urinals around that city’s notorious red-light district in an attempt to control if not eliminate late-night public urination, or “wild peeing.” The boxes, called GreenPees, resemble planters, according to CNN, and the hemp filters inside turn urine into an organic fertilizer and water that feed the plantings on top. During initial trials in 2018, inventor Richard de Vries said, “there was a 50% reduction in wild peeing. It was a great success.” For his next project, de Vries is researching how electricity can be generated whenever someone pees into one of his GreenPees.

    Somehow the name “wild peeing” sounds practically poetic.

  227. Don’t they have McDonald’s in Amsterdam?

    That’s where tourists in a foreign city usually go for domesticated peeing.

  228. More on wild peeing, with pictures of the planters and a (less-successful in my opinion, it still needs work) version for women. I don’t want to see or smell peeing in the street in any circumstances. The old Parisian vespasienne, the Colonne Moris, in sheet-metal and covered in advertising, seems to me the best attempt partly because you aren’t required to watch the event, you only see trousers and shoes. And look how significant public architecture was in the 19th Century; a cast-iron sentry box that cost proper money, no pink plastic spirals for them.

    This is not the first time we have discussed pissoirs.

  229. Lars Mathiesen says:

    Two of those pink things has been emplaced in the most visited public park in Copenhagen (measured by the number of competing battery-driven sound systems at night) — or at least most visited by beer drinkers now that bars close at 10pm, and itself newly under virus curfew on weekend nights.

    Four-way male versions were put in at the same time which is too recently to be on Google Street View, unlike a more traditional version near Christiania.

    A short video, but I don’t know if it will show outside Denmark. (Not showing the things in use, so SFW).

  230. At least from the outside, I like the traditional version; but is it intended for a group of people? Surely space for one person at a time ought to be enough. That pink plastic in a greenish public space is an abomination. They could paint stylised bodies, like those boards at funfairs where you put your head through the hole and get photographed as a lion.

  231. Stu Clayton says:

    I like the traditional version; but is it intended for a group of people?

    Perhaps in the olden days of cottaging. If not intended, then condoned. Amounts to the same thing while discretion is the name of the game.

  232. I suppose you had to fight your way to the front if you were only there for a pee.

  233. Stu Clayton says:

    Only ugly old gits got that far. Attractive gentleman were stopped in their tracks. The ceremony of innocence cuts no ice in that venue. IIRC.

  234. J.W. Brewer says:

    Too late to revive the “wild swimming” thread at LL to speculate if discussions of “wild peeing” lead to inventive attempts to avoid infinitive-splitting such as “wild to pee.” https://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=48051

  235. Was cottaging a thing in the United States? Perhaps it went under a different name, log-cabinning or ranch-housing. Not that cottages are always only one storey; that’s bungalows.

    Born to Pee Wild was the song by Steppenwolf, not Born to Pee Wildly. There’s something called free diving, where you hold your breath and go very deep. I’d never say ‘to dive freely’ if I meant ‘to free dive’. Nowadays it’s probably written free-dive or even freedive.

  236. Green’s Dictionary of Slang: cottage v.

    Don’t forget to click on “show all”; there are some great citations there (1988 A. Hollinghurst Swimming-Pool Library (1998) 18: You wouldn’t find a Viscount cottaging).

  237. The Hardass but Not Sadistic Emperor Vespasian put a tax on public urinals — not the use of them, but on the purchase of the urine, which was used for tanning, wool production, and ammonia for dry cleaning and bleaching, especially togas. When his son the future Effective and Well-Loved-except-by-the-Jews Emperor Titus complained that this was Unworthy the Dignity of an Emperor and Empire, the Hardass replied, “Pecunia non olet”, the money doesn’t stink.

    As far as I know there is no U.S. term for cottaging specifically, just the general term cruising, which however has historically been used intransitively only by gay men.

  238. Stu Clayton says:

    “You’re cruisin’ for a bruisin'” [Saturday Night Fever]

    In the same film, I think it was, “cruising” described groups of guys in cars driving slowly along the roads in those shopping mall areas of town, checking out the girls.

    The coast guard cruises in cruisers. I bet that is the origin of the word in other connections or nexuses. Here the ships (such as a Zollkreuzer) kreuzen auf und ab vor der Küste.

  239. J.W. Brewer says:

    See also the Green’s explanation of the relevant (not found in AmEng afaik) sense of the noun cottage, with this scholarly explanation:

    [categorized by Ware as a usage of ‘fast youths’ and attributed to ‘the published particulars of an eccentrically worded will in which the testator left a large fortune to be laid out in building “cottages of convenience”’]

  240. J.W. Brewer says:

    I associate the “teenagers driving around in cars, perhaps somewhat aimlessly or so it would seem to the grownups” sense of “cruising” with a phenomenon that arose in the 1950’s, but of course I got that notion through the hindsight received understanding of “the Fifties” that was presented to us Seventies kids via Happy Days and suchlike nostalgic depictions. Here’s a recent-ish photo book that stresses the Fifties origin of that kind of cruising.* https://www.amazon.com/Cruisin-Original-Woodward-Avenue-America/dp/0738540455 It’s sort of hard to figure out how to do the right corpus linguistics to find early uses of that particular sense, or at least I couldn’t do so within five minutes. The earliest definite usage in the google books corpus of the rather different gay sense of “cruise” I found was in an apparently controversial 1956 book that merits its own wikipedia article, viz https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homosexuality:_Disease_or_Way_of_Life%3F But of course especially in those days a word could exist in subcultural slang for some considerable number of years before first being printed in a book that would end up in the google books corpus.

    I would wager a quite modest sum of money that these two senses of “cruise” are independent and unrelated extensions of the core sense rather than one being a specific adaptation/modification of the other, but perhaps some slang scholars have actually investigated the topic in detail.

    *See also this series of “oldies” compilation LP’s covering the years from ’55 to ’70 — but they weren’t issued until some years after the fact so whether the use of the phrase is echt-period or sort of retrojected is left unclear. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cruisin%27_(sampler_series)

  241. @AJP etc:

    i concur with John: “cottaging” in the u.s. doesn’t really have a specific verb that i’ve ever known (“cruising” is broader – everything from sidewalks to parks to bars).

    but it does have its own vocabulary: the sites – in nyc, usually the subway restrooms, everywhere the ones in parks, department stores, college buildings, and highway rest stops – are “tearooms”, and the practice and its nominally straight (or at least butch) participants are both “tearoom trade”. here‘s the wikipedia article on laud humphreys’ classic book on the subject – it’s from 1970, but most of the ettiquette &c it describes haven’t changed much since then (at least in nyc and the other parts of the northeast i know well enough to judge).

    i have idly wondered whether there was a connection between “cottaging” in its (semi)public sex sense and the disrepute (among the gentry) of “cottagers” on common lands during and after enclosure. but ware’s “cottages of convenience” seems like a much more likely explanation…

  242. @J.W. Brewer: Probably before the 1950s, there were not enough teenagers with cars for it to become a cultural phenomenon.

  243. Stu, the US Coast Guard cruises in cutters. Cruisers are Navy.

  244. Lars Mathiesen says:

    For sailboats, at krydse means to tack against the wind — sense 5.1 of the verb, loaned from German where it is derived from Kreuz . Sense 5.2 is “sailing back and forth on no particular course but with a particular purpose like keeping a lookout.” The two activities would be hard for an observer to tell apart.

    Sb krydser is a boat designed for such a task.

    Cruise in English is probably from Du kruisen with the same senses.

    In the military application, you could cruise for enemies (krydse på fjenden) — so maybe sailors on shore leave have been “cruising” for other company for 500 years.

  245. I’m repeating myself with this link, but since we’re talking about cruising and we’ve recently been talking about Hart Crane,

    https://jonathanmorse.blog/2018/10/03/gai-voyage-hart-crane/

    Speaking of the love that dare not speak its name, this flyer from the era of Prohibition actually advertises what was called — but not in writing! — a booze cruise. And to pick up a really old thread, there’s probably semantic significance to the fact that the telephone number prefix, JOHn, is written as plain John. It means that at that time a ‘phone number was primarily thought of as something to be spoken to a human operator, not dialed directly into the technology.

    And yes, the ship in the picture is the Orizaba. The Robert E. Lee looked different.

  246. J.W. Brewer says:

    Going back to Crane’s actual poetry, it does strike me that there’s at least some range of internal diversity in register and tone and for every bit that hat might think a little VIctorianly over-egged like:

    “O Thou steeled Cognizance whose leap commits
    The agile precincts of the lark’s return”

    there’s a more Audenesque

    “Outspoken buttocks in pink beads
    Invite the necessary cloudy clinch”

    Okay maybe not a 1:1 ratio, but you see what I mean.

  247. Outspoken buttocks! Gracious me. But yes, I do see what you mean.

  248. I thought I liked Hart Crane when I first was introduced to him, but now I don’t. Both for the same reason—even a single stanza is an overly rich meal.

  249. rozele & John, as Stu said, ‘cruising’ isn’t, or wasn’t a little while ago, only a gay expression, whereas ‘cottaging’ always has been.

    Is outspoken buttocks a farting reference? I prefer my buttocks diplomatic, reticent or evasive.

    You wouldn’t find a Viscount cottaging
    But you might have found the duke of Devonshire. There’s a 1905 ref to ‘cottages of convenience’ (I agree, it seems a likely origin for cottaging) in Architectural Record (the US journal) here that shows it wasn’t at that time a synonym for ‘public convenience’, so what did it mean, a convenient second-home location, at a convenient price? Here’s more about the exhibition (in Letchworth, Herts, of garden city fame).

  250. Lars Mathiesen says:

    I found this unsent while closing old tabs… it was written after reading Krune’s September 16, 2020 at 9:49 am comment. 48 hours can really change the direction of a thread…

    (Old urinoirs).

    Danish males don’t go and piss in a group, past the age of 11 or so. (Crossing the streams against a live cattle fence was reputed to be a sort of rite of passage in more rural areas, but there was no cattle within 25 km of where I lived at that age).

    But as I remember, there is room for about four in there; the functional core is just a metal wall with a drain along it at ground level, like at the pub. If you gotta, you gotta, and don’t judge your neighbor.

    (New urinoirs).

    Yeah, I suspect the pink was chosen to manifest something other than a sense of colour harmony. (Since it’s intended as an alternative to doing it in the bushes, using a bush-like colour would not be a far-fetched idea). This is certainly easy to spot, but the grey of the male version stands out very nicely as well; however I haven’t passed there at night since they were set up, they might be harder to spot then.

  251. Neon lighting may be the answer.

  252. Lars Mathiesen says:

    Sadly, a few strings of LEDs in party colors powered by solar-charged batteries would be cheaper and more drunk-resistant.

    Though of course a 20kg neon sign transformer in the base would provide extra stability, and being outdoors the ozone probably won’t be a problem. Anything that can draw a two-inch electrical arc (in air, not neon) counts as fun in my book. The first time someone finds a way to pee on the 15kV line, though…

  253. Aha, you know lighting, Lars! My wife won some sort of Scandinavian lighting prize too. It’s a wonderful subject and, considering the hours of darkness, it’s a shame that so few people take an interest.

  254. did it mean, a convenient second-home location, at a convenient price?

    Yes, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t used as a technical term. “Its object was to show at what relatively trifling cost, if planned by a trained architect, cottages of convenience and taste can be secured” is just an over-egged way of saying “The point was to show how cheap, convenient, and tasteful a cottage can be if it’s designed by an architect.” (Trained architect sounds to my ear as old-fashioned as trained nurse; all architects and nurses are trained nowadays, with the possible exception of wet nurses.)

    People used to ask me, when I told them of my house in the country, whether it was a cottage. I would always answer no, it was a fully winterized house with three bedrooms (one in the basement), two bathrooms (o.i.t.b.), a full kitchen, and a large living room / dining room. But now I wonder if they were just asking me if I lived there full time, which I didn’t and don’t.

  255. Trained architect sounds to my ear as old-fashioned
    Me too. In 1905 it might have meant ‘fully-trained’, one who had completed an apprenticeship, a common entry into many jobs back then, rather than ‘a trainee’. Many solicitors, surveyors etc. didn’t attend university either; I believe even now there are accountants in Britain who received all their training in a firm rather than at a school of any kind (perhaps evening classes in golf & Fine Wines). Now that practically everyone seems to get some sort of tertiary education that may be over too.

    Here’s a common but unnecessary (to me anyway) adjective, via the NY Times:

    Mr. Trump promised …, “My nominee will come from the names I have shared with the American public.”

    Why American, why not just “the public” or “share publicly”?

  256. Lars Mathiesen says:

    I admit that I just read up quickly on WP. I have been wondering why there were little warning signs at ground level everywhere that (outdoor) neon signs used to be installed and had a vague idea that high voltage was involved, but not that it was 15kV. (It’s getting more common to see neon signs in shop windows now, and they look like they are made from real glass too, but I think they use solid-state voltage converters instead).

    Swedes really like lighting in the wintertime, strings of (now) LEDs go up on convenient evergreens in every second garden when summertime ends, more or less, and stay lit until it begins again. Down here with slightly longer days in wintertime, only enthusiasts do that and only for Christmas, really.

  257. Norwegians usually refer in English to their log cabin in the mountains or by the sea as a cottage. Rather than a cabin. They will not give this up; I’ve tried logic, dictionaries, reward & punishment but they always revert within 24 hrs.

  258. I agree that there’s a cultural component. I noticed one Christmas in a Cuban section of Miami that the exterior of practically every house had large flashing areas of colourful lights. They looked really good against the turquoise evening sky.

  259. Swedes really like lighting in the wintertime

    … so much so that they even call this marschall.

  260. Why American, why not just “the public” or “share publicly”?

    The American public is a political term meaning Americans in their political capacity, more or less synonymous with the people[*]. The public is used in contexts like art, health, and education. I cannot account for the distinction, but after looking at Dr. Google’s examples it seems clear enough to me.

    [*] In NY, criminal cases are officially prosecuted by the People of the State of New York, so if Smith has knocked some inconsiderable pipsqueak over the head and appeals his conviction to the Court of Appeals (NY’s supreme court), it will be known as People v. Smith.

  261. I think this would just be et telys in Norwegian. They are outside at any evening celebration, stearin or paraffin wax outdoor candles in what looks like a 4″dia. cat food tin. What’s the difference between marschall and värmeljus?

  262. telys

    From te ‘tea’ +‎ lys ‘light.’ And apparently it’s called a tealight in English (“Tealights derive their name from their use in teapot warmers, but are also used as food warmers in general”), though this is the first I’ve heard of it.

  263. My wife, however, knows the word.

  264. David Marjanović says:

    Well known as Teelicht in German, strangely mostly with a plural in -e rather than -er.

  265. I’ve seen those things in restaurants but I didn’t know there was a word. Except fondue. The idea of keeping tea warm like that is just… I had an irreparable break with George Orwell over his keeping the same pot of tea brewing all day long on top of a stove. Awful. If you’re Russian it’s one thing, samovars and whatnot, different concept, but he went to Eton for God’s sake, lived in Burma. If you want another cup of tea, then boil another kettleful of water and wash the teapot. It’s the same with coffee. Slovenly bastard.

  266. Stu Clayton says:

    strangely mostly with a plural in -e rather than -er

    In West Germany German mostly the other way around, frequency-wise.

    Das Windlicht ist geeignet für Teelichter [ad on website of Cologne on-line shop]

    Auf die Idee muss man mal kommen: Mit Teelichtern und Tontöpfen eine Wärmequelle für die Terrasse basteln. [website Katholische Frauengemeinschaft Deutschlands]

    “Wir brauchen noch LED-Teelichter” [website domradio in Cologne]

  267. Stu Clayton says:

    Hmmm… here’s an example of Teelichte from out in the sticks:

    Stilecht verteilten sie Teelichte an die närrische Schar am Straßenrand. [article in the Kölner Stadtanzeiger about Refrath near Cologne]

    Note what the locals call Refrath: Räfed.

    There’s something precious about people who say Teelichte. They’re often named Gesine or Tjark. The author of the article is KERSTIN HEDRICH. Grenzwertig.

  268. Stu Clayton says:

    I had an irreparable break with George Orwell over his keeping the same pot of tea brewing all day long on top of a stove.

    Is it OK to warm up coffee in the microwave oven ? Given the amount of coffee I drink while working (in order to work), making fresh pots would leave me no time for work.

  269. No time to work, then so be it. Microwaved coffee is better than stewed tea, in my opinion, but freshly brewed is what it’s about.

  270. Stu Clayton says:

    I had to let the maid go, so I make shift.

  271. PlasticPaddy says:

    Lichte seems to have been an alternative plural for Licht, although DWDS says “dichterisch”. Here are some Corpus results.
    1601.
    vnd Keller tragen / Auch zu Winters zeit die vberbliebene Liechte trewlich samlen / vnd biß zu folgendem Abend auffheben

    1703.
    Vor gemeldetem runden Loche oder Eingang zu der Höle zündet der Führer bey einem in der Laterne oder Leüchte verborgenen brennenden Lichte die bey sich habende Fackeln und Lichte an

    1756.
    Die besten Lichte bekömmt man, wenn man die Hälfte Ziegen- oder Schaf- und die Hälfte Rinds-Talk nimmt.

    1800.
    Sollten grosse Säle u. s. w. vorgestellt werden, so würde ja auch die Illusion nicht gestöhrt werden, wenn die Beleuchtung durch Kronenleuchter, und Lichte auf der Bühne selbst verstärkt würde.

    1862.
    Einem die Lichte bringen — Jemand bestehlen.

    Here is one after 1900:

    Czernowitzer Allgemeine Zeitung. Nr. 2277, Czernowitz, 22.08.1911.
    Aber du sollst ein Bäumchen haben; Rosen hast ja genug, und Aepfel auch, und Nüsse und Lichte bring’ ich dir noch mit herauf.

  272. PlasticPaddy says:

    @stu
    Re reheating coffee in the mw, this is NOT ok and could lead to a verdict of justifiable homicide if practiced in Italy.

  273. Stu Clayton says:

    Dichterisch is a suitable rendering of “precious” as I used it here.

    I don’t fit in with the dolce vita crowd, that’s for sure.

  274. David Marjanović says:

    and wash the teapot.

    Teapots only need to be washed if a teabag has burst. Otherwise, it’s enough to make sure the teapot is empty and can dry.

    Likewise, electric water boilers only need to be washed when the limestone deposits get too thick. Just open the lid after you’ve poured the water out, so the thing dries.

    There’s something precious about people who say Teelichte. They’re often named Gesine or Tjark. The author of the article is KERSTIN HEDRICH. Grenzwertig.

    Kerstin, oddly, became widely popular in the 80s; I had one or even two in my class in school for years, so it feels normal to me. But I only learned that Gesine exists when one, surnamed Schwan, was nominated for president of Germany; I can’t make heads or tails of it. And Tjark… is that Frisian?

    Lichte seems to have been an alternative plural for Licht

    I bet it’s the original one. -er plurals are etymological only for nine words, the PIE *s-stems; those 9 were the only ones that had such plurals in OHG, and the spread of this ending took centuries and may still be ongoing.

    BTW, in the quote from 1703, only the second occurrence is the acc. pl.; the first is the dat. sg..

  275. If you want another cup of tea, then boil another kettleful of water and wash the teapot.

    I agree, except for washing the teapot. It was mother’s firm belief, which I adhere to, that a teapot should never be washed, only rinsed with boiling water. There was no reason behind this practice, except that it’s the way things are done.

  276. David Marjanović says:

    The reason was to keep a patina of tea in the pot – it would be unnecessary, if not downright perverse, to scrub it out only to make a new one.

    Depending on how porous the clay is, the patina might even prevent the flavor from staying in the pot.

  277. Lars Mathiesen says:

    There seems to be confusion between the indoor and outdoor types.

    Fyrfadslys / värmeljus / telys. Standardized at 38mm diameter, they will indeed fit in specials stand intended to keep a pot of tea not-cold. But not really drinkable. Also there are all sorts of decorative holders to be had, if you just want to burn some paraffin. The wick is on a little holder to keep it upright because the burning rate is high; all the paraffin will melt and the little aluminum cup will get hot enough to leave burn marks on your wooden table. (A 60mm version exists as well, but is not as widely used).

    Haveblus / marschall. These are often made with relatively unrefined or at least unbleached paraffin. The wick is square to keep it upright because these will also get very hot and leave burn marks in your lawn. They are usually emplaced on the sidewalk outside your house when expecting guests. They can only be extinguished with a lid — by design, wind will only make them burn faster and hotter.

    Gravlygte / gravljus. These are basically candles in a protective plastic cylinder, with a burning time of days, and will not scorch anything. The cap is to prevent the wind from blowing them out and/or the snow from getting in and drowning the wick. They are mostly placed on graves for Halloween, a Swedish custom that is spreading to Denmark. (I had never seen one before I moved to Sweden in 2006, now they are in all the grocery stores in Copenhagen).

  278. Lars Mathiesen says:

    There is so much lime in the water here that after 20 to 30 years of daily use, the flow into the spout is no longer satisfactory. (Those five little holes). That is when you gently apply baking soda until renewed satisfaction is achieved, making sure not to remove too much accumulated flavour.

    (Boiling the water should have reduced the carbonate concentration enough that it’s not limescale that forms; my theory (and it is mine) is that the calcium ions make various tannins and such precipitate).

  279. Chinese 紫砂 zǐshā teapots, made from a particular clay, are meant to soak up the flavour of the tea. So rinsing is quite enough. In fact, the Wikipedia article on Yixing ware has this to say “Yixing teawares are prized because their unglazed surfaces absorb traces of the beverage, creating a more complex flavour. For these reasons, Yixing teawares should never be washed using detergents, but rather with water only, and connoisseurs recommend using each tea vessel for one kind of tea (white, green, oolong, black, or puer) or sometimes even one variety of tea only.”

    Theoretically, I guess, you could eventually make a pot of tea without using any tea leaves at all, but I never used mine long and consistently enough to get the requisite soaked-in flavour that might justify trying it.

  280. grenzwertig

    Does that mean ‘of borderline quality’ or ‘relating to someone from near the border’?

    Tjark

    Frisian, meaning ‘Theodoric’. The English versions of this name are Derek or Derrick < Low German, Terry < French Thierry (when it isn’t < Terence or T(h)eresa), and Tudor < Welsh.

    I got sick of lime buildup in coffeepots, so the latest one is all-aluminum except for its bakelite handle.

  281. Stu Clayton says:

    It could be translated as “borderline” (adj). Not in quality but in quantity. Something almost qualifies (!) as X in terms of real or imagined quantification, i.e. measurement (the Werte).

    There’s the colloquial, deprecatory sense of “just barely tolerable, he/she is pushing it with that behavior”, and the technical one of “close to a limit value” as in grenzwertige Belastung – with the implication that the material may fail due to the load/stress.

    I was joking that “Kerstin Hedrich” is almost a name of a kind that implies its bearer indulges in poetic plurals.

    The DWDS entry has examples.

  282. Stu Clayton says:

    Apparently I have lost the ability to make sense of the word “quality”. “The quality of mercy droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven” is a blatant misrepresentation, since the droplets can be counted. Any kind of “more” or “less” is inimical to the notion of quality. It’s one of those wovon-man-nicht-sprechen-kann thingies.

  283. Chinese 紫砂 zǐshā teapots, made from a particular clay, are meant to soak up the flavour of the tea. So rinsing is quite enough.

    Good to know; I’ve actually had one for a couple of decades, but never made tea in it (not being a real tea drinker, I’m content with tea bags when I indulge).

  284. The text says: “The quality of mercy is not strained; it droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven upon the fields beneath” I take that to mean that it is mercy, not the quality of mercy, that drops as the gentle rain etc. However, it’s not much of a difference: the quality of redness is the same as redness, unless you are Strawson. Lastly, strained here means ‘constrained’, so mercy (or its quality, as you will) is uncoerced, like the rain.

    (“Does a rock roll down a hill because it has to or because it wants to?” “Neither: a rock just does roll down a hill.”)

  285. Lars: is vinegar not good?

    A baking stone, I’m told, should not be washed with soap, either, or it’ll flavor whatever you bake on it.

  286. Stu Clayton says:

    the quality of redness is the same as redness, unless you are Strawson.

    Given our ages, I would have expected this to refer to the père-shaped individual. I forgot that you are not averse to a quailia-shoot.

  287. I thought that Welsh Tudor was from “Theodore” rather than “Theodoric”. Interestingly, we get the same result in Croatian. (well either that or Igor Tudor is somehow in the royal line if succession).

  288. David Eddyshaw says:

    Igor Tudor should get on well with Ivan of York.

  289. David Marjanović says:

    but never made tea in it (not being a real tea drinker, I’m content with tea bags when I indulge)

    I don’t think that changes anything. …Oh, do you mean you always make your tea in the cup directly, only one cup at a time?

    I thought that Welsh Tudor was from “Theodore” rather than “Theodoric”.

    That would explain why it has a t ( < Latin [t] > Greek) as opposed to th!

  290. David Eddyshaw says:

    Although th exists in Welsh, of course, it only occurs word-initially as a result of “mutation.” You wouldn’t expect “Thudor”, regardless of etymology.

  291. Oh, do you mean you always make your tea in the cup directly, only one cup at a time?

    Exactly.

  292. Apparently Welsh version of Theodore is Tewdwr.

    And Welsh Theodoric is Tudor.

    Pretty confusing.

    But at least now I know that Tudor literally means “Teuton king”.

    This would explain a lot of things.

  293. I should have said my teapot is glass with a removable stainless steel infuser and an upside-down petri dish for its lid. My daughter gave it to me. Therefore it needs washing. It’s good for containing & removing the old leaves before they pour out and block the sink. One’s got to move with the times even with teapots.

    The place to find furred-up kettles is London, a city surrounded by chalk and with the world’s hardest water.

    I may have mentioned my German colleague who never washed his coffee cup. He thought the coffee accumulated flavour and resonance. He was a Hamburger, name of Darboven, a distant relative, but I was in no position to argue coffee with him. The funny thing was that he mostly drank Nescafé in it.

  294. Well, if you drink Nescafé, you need all the flavor and resonance you can get.

  295. David Marjanović says:

    You wouldn’t expect “Thudor”, regardless of etymology.

    What an ugly fact. 🙂

  296. Lars Mathiesen says:

    Vinegar works fine for limescale in the kettle, though I prefer citric acid because it doesn’t get in your nose the same way. I didn’t try using it in the pot, since the tea shop (est. 1835) said baking soda and who am I to doubt their expertise?

  297. Tea is fiendishly good at taking on alien flavors, that’s why you keep it in tea boxes out of the way from other flavors. And that’s also why tea pots should only be rinsed with clear water, never washed with detergents or other agents with a strong flavor – your tea will taste of them forever. This is about the inside of the tea pot, of course – feel free to wash the outside if you don’t want Mr. Crown think you’re a slob 🙂

  298. You should of course wash and then dry the outside of your teapot and warm it by filling it with hot water while the kettle boils if you don’t want Mr. Crown’s mother to think you’re not a slob exactly, let’s just say unnecessarily disorganised.

  299. It looks like I might get along with your mother quite well, at least when it comes to the correct treatment of tea pots 🙂

  300. Re Stu’s remarks concerning people called Gesine and Tjark: East Frisia is the only area in Germany where people traditionally drink tea as the default hot beverage (the rest is coffee country, although you wouldn’t know it by the quality of what is traditionally served as coffee in most parts of Germany), so it’s no wonder that Germans fussing about tea often have Frisian names. (I think I mentioned here that I grew up, but wasn’t born, up there.)

  301. Lars Mathiesen says:

    Using a mug for coffee once will ruin it for tea forever, according to some.

    The tea shop I mentioned above does not sell coffee, though now a days they just politely explain why. (It would ruin the tea). In the good old days you would be marched out of the shop and not allowed to buy anything, and asking for teabags or a tea sock would earn you a scolding — tea could only be made in a proper china or stoneware tea pot with loose leaf tea added directly to the pot. If you really had to they would sell you a tea strainer for your cup, but really you should just learn to pour properly so the tea leaves stayed in the pot.

  302. David Marjanović says:

    Not forever, but even thermos bottles that have had coffee in it taste of coffee for a good long while thereafter.

  303. Lars Mathiesen says:

    Actually I think thermos are worse than mugs about retaining flavour. I will happily alternate between hot drinks in my favourite mug, though I know people to whom this is anathema, but most function rooms will have a phalanx of white thermos for tea and black for coffee and woe does betide those who DO IT WRONG. But then tea in a thermos is never going to be good anyway.

    (It may just be an effect of longer storage times, both for the giver and taker of flavours, or it may be something about the plastic seals).

  304. Given our ages, I would have expected this to refer to the père-shaped individual.

    It did, viz. P. F. Strawson. I know little of Galen Strawson, and less of Major General John Strawson, brother of the first and uncle of the second.

    [Orthographic note: I really do prefer “P. F. Strawson” to “P.F. Strawson”; the latter looks crowded, and on those principles why not “P.F.Strawson”?]

    And Welsh Theodoric is Tudor.

    Well, Tudur (pronounced more or less “Tea, dear.”) Tudor is just what the English mangelated it to. Which is actually not nearly as bad as making Llanilltud into Lantwit.

    As far as I can make out, the first of the Tudors to bear the name was Tudur ap Ednyfed Fychan (1190-1278), who appears in Henry III’s records as “Tuder son of Edynaueth” (u = v); he was granted a maintenance of 10 shillings (about £8500 today) per year while in the king’s service. And Goronwy begat Tudur Hen ‘the elder’, who begat Goronwy, who begat Tudur, who begat Maredudd (anglicized Meredith), who begat Owain Tudur (Owen Tudor to the English), who begat Edmund Tudor, first Earl of Richmond, who begat Henry Tudor who became King He7nry of England. The 7 is silent.

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