Dave's Free Press: Journal

violence, pornography, and rude words for the web generation


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Sun, 2 Sep 2012

Kindle in India

Electronic books have been around for ages - I was paying for them back in 1999 and classics have been available electronically for at least 40 years, thanks to Project Gutenberg. But it's only recently that they've become a mass market, and this is largely down to Amazon's Kindle. Oh sure, there are lots of other "e-readers", but the Kindle is the market leader.

The last couple of years have, not coincidentally, seen an explosion of independent authors. Now that you don't need to print books, many authors who don't already have publication contracts are cutting out that particular middleman and self-publishing, using Amazon for distribution.

The Kindle and Amazon ecosystem does, of course, have drawbacks. But by getting e-books out into the mainstream, something that normal people read and not just weird geeks, Amazon have enabled other sources of e-books to exist. Remember how cider used to be marginalised until Magners came along with their bloody awful pap and their enormous advertising budget? They made cider mainstream, and created a market for smaller producers of better-quality products. Amazon's mainstreaming of e-books has enabled sites like Smashwords to also take off. Most indie authors who self-publish on the Kindle also use sites like Smashwords to sell to users of non-Kindle devices.

And now, the Kindle has launched in India. India is, as well as being the world's greatest democracy, the largest English-speaking country. I'm confident that the Kindle in India will precipitate a boom in electronic self-publishing there just as it has in the US and UK. And, of course, they'll want to sell world wide and won't have any idiot publishers to stop them. I'm looking forward to it!

Posted at 22:01 by David Cantrell
keywords: books | culture | electronics | language
Permalink | 0 Comments
Sun, 17 Oct 2010

Strong vs weak

Confused of Edinburgh writes:

Dear Mr Free Press

Not so much a rant but a question related to my previous one.

Why is the past tense of run RAN?

I walked down the street

I jogged down the street

I runned down the street doesn't quite work.

This is because to run is a strong verb. As a general rule, strong verbs do not take -ed to form the past tense but instead change a vowel. Other examples are the verbs to sing, to drink, and to write. Naturally, the opposite of a strong verb is a weak verb. They generally take -ed to form the past tense.

There are several classes of strong verb, characterised by the pattern of vowel changes from one tense to another. This is why drink goes to drank but think doesn't go to thank.

Over time, some verbs which used to be strong have become weak, and vice versa. The overall trend, however, is one of weakening - between two thirds and three quarters of the verbs that were strong in English a thousand years ago are now weak.

Wikipedia has a lengthy but frankly rather tedious article on the subject. I don't suggest reading it beyond the "general developments" section.

Also, I don't recommend running down the street. It's undignified. Try sauntering instead.

Posted at 22:13 by David Cantrell
keywords: language
Permalink | 3 Comments
Tue, 12 Oct 2010

-ise vs -ize

Outraged of Edinburgh writes:

Dear Mr Free Press

Check out the Oxford English Dictionary online.


I wanted to check my use of "utilise" ('scuse the pun) but it wasn't there, only "utilize". Organize is but not organise.

Think I'd better give up the writing and go back to colouring in pictures(or is that coloring?)

Outraged is quite wrong. To start with, in almost all cases you can use "use" instead of "utilize". Shorter words are generally better than longer words with the same meaning, longer ones only serving to obfuscate or to show off.

Getting to the meat of Outraged's question, -ize is better, as it corresponds better to the Greek ending -ιζειν. -ise corresponds to Latin -itia. In general, one should use -ize for verbs and -ise (or -ice) for nouns, but, English being irritatingly inconsistent, there is no hard-and-fast rule, and in all but a very few cases, -ise and -ize are both acceptable in verbs.

In the OED, see -ise(2) and -ize.

-ize is sometimes thought of as being an American novelty because the spelling diverged after the foundation of the Colonies. However, as in so many cases, it is English that has diverged while the ever-conservative Damnyankees have remained true to the mother tongue. In this case, the switch from -ize to -ise was part of a wider Frenchification of the written language in the 18th century, by writers who thought that so doing made them appear to be more kulchural. This arrant nonsense also brought us "theatre" instead of "theater".

Posted at 00:09 by David Cantrell
keywords: books | culture | language
Permalink | 2 Comments
Wed, 25 Mar 2009


Oh dear. I think someone needs to tell the Japanese that "UK & Ireland" isn't a language.

(Yeah, I know, none of the others are too)

Posted at 22:09 by David Cantrell
keywords: language | web
Permalink | 0 Comments
Wed, 11 Feb 2009

Whisky vs Whiskey: a style guide:

The booze columnist for the New York Times recently made a frightful error. But to give credit where credit is due, he then Did The Right Thing and got his editors to correct their style guide. However, while the new style guide is better than the previous one, it's still wrong. The rules for when to spell it whisky or whiskey are as follows:

  • Malt never has an 'e', unless made in Ireland or the US, in which case it always does;
  • Everything else always has an 'e', unless it's Canadian or a Scottish blend, in which case it never does.

"Citation needed!" I hear you cry!

Very well! A citation you shall have! Stroll leisurely over to your drinks cabinet, and from it extract bottles of Amrut (a single malt from India) and Yamazaki (a single malt from Japan). Notice how they spell 'whisky' - without an e. Then visit one of your friends who lacks taste, and examine his bottle of Famous Grouse. That too has no e. Now, look at your bottles of Jameson's, Knob Creek and Blanton's. They all spell it 'whiskey'. Finally, look at the website for that rare bird, the American single malt, and also at one for a Canadian single malt. Notice that the American distillery uses an e, where the Canadian one doesn't.

Thankyou for your attention.

Posted at 20:43 by David Cantrell
keywords: drinking | language | whisky
Permalink | 3 Comments
Wed, 28 Jan 2009

More new words

Now that the OED have added one of the two words I informed them of to their colossal organ, I feel I should see if they'll pick up on some words I created.

  1. Bankocalypse: in Financial mythology, what happens to banks at the time of Lendnarok; a disaster resulting in drastic irreversible damage to their bottom line and share value.
  2. Econoclasm: the breaking or destroying of economies; the overthrow of institutions and cherished beliefs such as "my house will always go up in value", now regarded as fallacious or superstitious.

You are all encouraged to use these fine words, get them in print, and then tell the OED where they were published!

Posted at 20:49 by David Cantrell
keywords: culture | language
Permalink | 0 Comments
Tue, 27 Jan 2009

New words

[originally posted to my old livejournal on 2006-03-12]

I just found my second real word that's not in the OED 2nd edition. Yay!

The first one I found was some time ago - hardbody, which appears in print in "American Psycho". The second is prannet, which as well as being in Ian Dury's most excellent little ditty "Billericay Dickie" also appears in Alan Moore's "V for Vendetta".

[update: 2009-01-27]

Prannet is now listed in the online edition which is accessible with your library card number. Hurrah!

Posted at 12:58 by David Cantrell
keywords: culture | language
Mon, 10 Nov 2008

Language-targetted spam?

Today I got spam about "activation keys". Nothing unusual there. However, while I got a couple of copies of it in English sent to two of my usual addresses, I also got a copy in German that had been sent to an address on a machine I have in Germany.

While all spam is of course evil and its perpetrators should have divers cruel and unusual things done to them until they are no longer unusual, this is a Good Thing. It means that I should start to get less spam in those odd foreign languages that seem to be spelt "??? ????? ???? ???????? ?? ???? ???? ???".

Posted at 22:55 by David Cantrell
keywords: language | spam
Permalink | 0 Comments
Fri, 31 Oct 2008

I am out of the office, please try later

Even if you don't speak Welsh, surely it's obvious that if you get an instantaneous reply from a state employee something's gone wrong.

Posted at 21:25 by David Cantrell
keywords: language | silly
Permalink | 1 Comment
Wed, 30 Jul 2008

Lip-reading lessons

Recently a brochure dropped into my doormat listing a load of courses offered by my local borough council's adult education department.

Many of you will be aware that I am somewhat deaf, and getting deafer. That brochure arriving caused something that Earl Filthy of Monkeyshire, OBE, WTD, KFC had said a few months ago in't pub to rise from the vile and putrid depths of my brane (it had presumably been rooting around in the basement for pornography or zombie flicks. Or both), and so I was prompted to look in the brochure for lip-reading courses.

And lo! There was one! But unlike every single other course, it didn't say when, where, or how much. So I emailed them. No response. I phoned them. Got through to a lovely young lady who told me that the person dealing with that course was off having her lunch but she'd phone me back.

Did they phone back? Did they fuck.

So, can anyone point me at a Lip-reading For Complete Beginners course, either in Croydon or central London, which isn't run by disorganised fuckwits?

Posted at 16:14 by David Cantrell
keywords: deafness | language
Permalink | 0 Comments
Thu, 8 May 2008

The Olympics: now available in Welsh!

The 2012 Olympics, which are to be held in the east end of London, in England, and which are already billions of pounds over budget, will now have to be bi-lingual in English and in a little-known language spoken by just 750,000 people. Of those 750,000, a mere 50,000 live in London (making up just 0.6% of the population), and of those 50,000, there can't be more than 10 who aren't also fluent in English.

Naturally, the extra costs incurred in hiring people fluent in Welsh for no other reason than that they are fluent in Welsh, and in translating printed and electronic materials, will not be covered by the Welsh Language Board.

Thankyou very fucking much Rhodri Glyn Thomas you sheep-shagging nationalist CUNT.

Posted at 20:22 by David Cantrell
keywords: language | london | olympics
Permalink | 0 Comments
Thu, 31 May 2007

Cricket, Rain and Old English

It was dad's birthday last week, so on Monday I took him to see Sussex play Ireland at Hove in the ECB Trophy. Predictably, being a bank holiday, it rained all bloody day so there was no play. Thankfully, we can use the tickets in two weeks time to see Sussex against Essex at Arundel in the same competition. Unfortunately this means that I can't go Ða Engliscan Gesiðas's Old English learning day which is at the same time. Bah.

It's a shame we couldn't see Ireland play. They did very well indeed in the recent World Cup, and it would have, I am sure, been an entertaining game.

Posted at 22:26 by David Cantrell
keywords: anglo-saxon | language | sport
Permalink | 0 Comments
Wed, 28 Mar 2007

A list ...

of five works of fiction in English that everyone should read and most of you haven't:

  • The King James version of the Bible
  • Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (at minimum, read the Miller's Tale and the Wife of Bath's Tale)
  • Farmer Giles of Ham, by JRR Tolkien
  • Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
  • How Green Was My Valley, by Richard Llewellyn

Also consider reading News From Nowhere by William Morris, 1984 by George Orwell, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, and The Lay of Havelok the Dane.

And here's five that you should read in an English translation, and again probably haven't:

  • Hrafnkel's Saga
  • The Iliad and The Odyssey
  • The Quran
  • Asterix and the Golden Sickle
  • Medea, by Euripides
Posted at 20:08 by David Cantrell
keywords: books | language
Permalink | 1 Comment
Sat, 2 Sep 2006

A big "well done" to news organisations

You all did so well in picking up the story about a new oil field being found in Poland. I'm sure it's a minor oversight that none of you bothered putting it on your web sites, leaving world-wide publicity of this momentous find to YLE Radio 1 in Finland, whose Nuntii Latini news programme I picked it up from.

Incidentally, can any classicists out there think of a better way of translating "oil field" than the very literal "campus petrolei"?

Posted at 21:08 by David Cantrell
keywords: language | latin
Permalink | 0 Comments
Wed, 16 Aug 2006

New Evil Plan

I have a new plan for taking over the world. I will find a cute Czech girl, and a handsome Welsh man (OK, that could be a bit of a problem), pay them to marry, and then - bwahahahahahahahahha - I will hold the global consonant supply hostage! Governments will uie i ae ea! Corporations will ue and nations a a y ee!

Posted at 19:37 by David Cantrell
keywords: language | silly
Permalink | 2 Comments
Fri, 7 Apr 2006

Police-speak migrates

The RISKS Digest is one of my regular reads, and jolly good it normally is too. But vol 24 issue 22 had me foaming at the mouth with anger. It seems that police-speak has infected this august and normally intelligent journal.

Police-speak is that curious language used by police officers when speaking to the press when they talk about how officers "did arrest" people instead of just arresting them, or they talk about "incidents". They clearly do this in an attempt to make themselves sound more important and eloquent than they really are, and to avoid giving real meaningful answers to questions. Police-speak is a dialect of officialese.

Back to RISKS - according to that issue, a plane "ran out of fuel and collided with terrain". In English, we'd say that it "ran out of fuel and crashed". The writer of that piece, who otherwise writes well, should be ashamed.

Posted at 12:47 by David Cantrell
keywords: language
Permalink | 1 Comment