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Rara avis

I hear that when Arrakis was being colonized, the colonizers brought with them a wide array of North American songbirds. Most of those thrived, but one particular blue bird never did very well, and quickly became endangered. Which is how we get the old saying “What is so rare as a jay in Dune?”

One phrase to rule them all

A recent KQED headline reads “Making Sense of Purple Air vs. AirNow, and a New Map to Rule Them All,” which makes me wonder whether the headline-writers at KQED know where that phrase comes from. I feel like comparing something to Sauron’s One Ring might be seen as an indication that the thing is bad, […]

2020 AP Stylebook changes

Article from ACES (an organization of editors) about this year’s changes to the AP Stylebook. (Article was published in May.) One particularly noteworthy part: Lead stylebook editor Paula Froke said the gender-neutral language entry “aims to treat people equally and is inclusive of people whose gender identity is not strictly male or female.” (I haven’t […]

The CMU Pronouncing Dictionary

“The Carnegie Mellon University Pronouncing Dictionary is an open-source machine-readable pronunciation dictionary for North American English that contains over 134,000 words and their pronunciations.” One could use this data for speech recognition and speech synthesis, as the page suggests. One could also, presumably, use it to automatically create a rhyming dictionary, which is not a […]

Foods named after places

Wikipedia’s List of foods named after places is pretty interesting, although like most Wikipedia articles it could use some cleanup and reorganization. (And it’s certainly not a complete list.) It’s more specifically a list of “English language food toponyms which may have originated in English or other languages,” although I suspect some of the terms […]

The voice was passivized by the author

I just saw the following line in an ad: I can’t believe it was made by myself! …Certainly passive voice is not the only problem with that sentence. For example, the last word should be me rather than myself; a lot of English speakers incorrectly use myself to sound more formal or official in contexts […]

When captioning goes awry

I’m not sure whether the captioning for this year’s online Worldcon panels is automated or human transcription. One panel that I watched, the captioning was pretty much unreadable, but on another one, it’s pretty good. But even in the good one, there were some mistakes. Such as when one of the panelists used the word […]

cancellation culture

In an article about Trump canceling the in-person Republican National Convention, the following line appears: “This is the cancel culture run wild,” said one top Republican donor. …I can’t tell whether the donor intended that line as a joke, or whether they were just unclear on the meaning of the phrase cancel culture. I’m guessing […]