A few signs before I leave

This will be the last post on The Word for a little while. I’ll pause briefly while you all cry out in anguish and plead the gods to hear your cry. I’m heading overseas again and won’t be able to get to a computer very regularly. When I’m not being an author, I work as a personal trainer and Kung Fu instructor. In this capacity I’m off to China for a couple of weeks of training seminars and competitions, then on to Old Blighty for a brief rest and to catch up with family and friends. As opportunity and internet access allows, I will post anything Word suitable, but don’t be surprised if things are quiet ’round these parts for a few weeks.

Before I go, however, let me leave you with a couple of things to be going on with. First, we have this rather confusing sign at the BP petrol station next to Sydney Park:

In case it’s not clear, the sign reads:

no parking

customers only

10 min max

Are we to take this to mean that only customers are not allowed to park there for a maximum of ten minutes? This sign both confuses and annoys me. Of course, I’m well aware of what it’s supposed to mean, but that’s not actually what it says. Is it so hard to get a proof reader for seven words?

Next up is another church sign, sent in by a dedicated Word reader who wishes to remain anonymous. I’m not sure why; perhaps they fear retribution from the Anglican church in the form of an incomprehensible leaflet campaign. Anyway, I’d seen this sign myself and was glad that someone took the trouble to photograph it and save me the effort.

This is not only the usual bizarre rhetoric we’ve come to expect from churches, but it manages to be both incorrect and irrelevant on several points. Not a bad effort for a two line comment.

Firstly, robots, having no genetic material, can’t be cloned. They are simply facsimiles. Now, you can take a broad definition of the word ‘clone’ and let that pass. However, the Reverend Nonsense goes on to suggest that robots don’t suffer from their cloning. Of course not; they’re robots. They have no emotional capacity and couldn’t suffer from anything. Then the Rev. Nonsense asks if we’ll feel like that in the future. Feel like what? Feel like something that can’t feel and wouldn’t feel anyway as it would have no problem with being ‘cloned’? It makes no sense whatsoever. And the Rev. Nonsense is plainly leaping onto a bandwagon with regard to a subject about which he has close to no knowledge whatsoever.

And to leave you, having seen the grand effort from St Stephen’s Anglican Church in Bellevue Hill (above), I went to check up on our old friends at the Central Baptist Church in Sydney, that have provided such great signs in the past. And yes, they’re at it again:

I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions on that one.

Right, I’m off to pack my bags and confirm flights and all that nonsense. Check back often, but I apologise in advance for the inevitably interrupted service. Keep your emails and suggestions coming, as I always enjoying hearing from you all.

I didn’t, but if I did

It has to be one of the most tasteless announcements of the decade. O J Simpson, the former US football star found not guilty of murder in the June 1994 stabbing deaths of his former wife, Nicole and her friend Ron Goldman, has released a book called If I Did It. The book contains, in one chapter, a hypothetical account of how O J would have committed the murder, had he done it. Which, of course, he didn’t. According to the trial. His previous book, I Want To Tell You, published in February 1995, stated his innocence. That book was apparently written in response to over 300,000 pieces of mail received while he was in jail. What prompted this latest book is a mystery. I mean, surely he’s not just cashing in on the gruesome murder of his ex-wife?

O J “Juice” Simpson

Television channel Fox will also be airing an interview with Simpson, in which he covers the same ground as covered in his new book. Any earnings from the book and interview are at risk, however, as a civil court found Simpson liable for the deaths in 1997 and ordered him to pay US$33.5 million in damages to the families of the victims. Those families intend to attempt to garnish any future earnings Simpson might make to cover those damages, even though Simpson has said he will never pay.

Only in America.

Even Simpson’s lawyer is “pissed” about the whole thing. Yale Galanter said he had no knowledge of the deal before the news broke through the media. “I definitely would not have approved this.” He said. “… I wouldn’t have done it for a gazillion dollars.” Apparently the deal was approved by Simpson’s four children, two of whom are from his marriage to the murdered Nicole Brown Simpson.

Yale Galanter – “pissed”

And in a strange and desperate segue, INXS’s lyric Never Tear Us Apart has taken out the top prize as Australia’s all-time favourite lyric. Released in 1988, it was voted Nation’s Favourite Lyric by viewers of pay TV music channel VH1. Jeff Buckley’s Last Goodbye was second, with You’re Beautiful by James Blunt in third, Wonderwall by Oasis in fourth and Yellow by Coldplay in fifth.

All of which goes to prove one thing. Viewers of VH1 have absolutely atrocious taste in music.

Bonza! Aussies recognised by Microsoft

In an unusual step away from their usual American-centric attitude to everything, Microsoft is updating it’s spellchecker software in its 2007 Office release. The update will, in part, recognise distinctly Australian slang and prevent those irritating red squiggly lines from appearing under words such as ‘bonza’ and ‘dinky-di’. Although the current software only considers ‘di’ a spelling error while it’s quite happy to ignore ‘dinky’. Interestingly, fair dinkum is already ignored by Word 2000.

The top 20 words considered most relevant to everyday Australians were garnered in an online poll that attracted more than 24,000 voters. The top five words were G’day, sickie, ute, trackies and bogan. Sickie is already ignored, but the others all attract that annoying squiggly line. “Although many Australian words and spellings are already included in Microsoft Office, we saw the upcoming release as the ideal opportunity to make sure the Aussie classics weren’t forgotten,” said Microsoft Australia spokesman Tony Wilkinson. “We knew that some quintessential Aussie vernacular was missing.”

A ute

The full list of twenty words, in order of popularity, is:

1. G’day (2,868 votes)
2. Sickie (2,152 votes)
3. Ute (1,912 votes)
4. Trackies (1,597 votes)
5. Bogan (1,557 votes)
6. Dag
7. Sheila
8. Wuss
9. Uluru
10. Galah
11. Jackaroo
12. Dob
13. Bonza
14. Cockie
15. Dinky-di
16. Ugg
17. Waratah
18. Ironman
19. Ridgy-didge
20. Bradman

It really makes me wonder about what Australians consider important. Why on Earth is Bradman in there? When will Australians get over this unhealthy obsession with a sportsman? I’m Australian myself (as well as being English) and I’m a Personal Trainer and Martial Artist, so I have nothing against an obsession with sport. But considering the surname of a dead cricketer to be one of Australia’s twenty most important words is obsession bordering on the insane.

He’s dead. Move on.

The inclusion of jackaroo at number eleven is good, but the exclusion of jillaroo is likely to annoy feminists. However, on just writing that sentence, jillaroo didn’t get a red squiggle. Explain yourselves, Microsoft!

But all this is fairly irrelevant as far as I’m concerned, as there are much more important issues at stake. It’s all very well including Australianisms in the Microsoft spellcheck, but it’s a token effort. (Incidentally, can you believe that spellcheck gets a red squiggly line under it?)

As a writer I’m more concerned about the proliferation of that unholy abomination, American English. It’s fine for Americans if they must drop the ‘u’ out of everything, ignore the actual spelling of aluminium and thrash the letter ‘z’ to within an inch of its life, but what about the rest of us? In England and Australia, countries that still use the English language correctly (slang notwithstanding) we want our correct spelling recognised. The day I stop seeing red squiggles under colour, recognise and humour I’ll consider Microsoft to have apologised and really accept that there are other ways of spelling. Correct ways, that is. When I see a drop-down menu that asks me to select a language for a new application and it has English (English) right under English (American) I’ll be a happy little writer.

In reality they seldom attack a human

“The razor-toothed piranhas of the genera Serrasalmus and Pygocentrus are the most ferocious freshwater fish in the world. In reality they seldom attack a human.”

Pretty interesting, huh? I bet that’s information that you can use at the next dinner party you attend. But wait, there’s more. That’s the official piece of text authorised by the Guinness World Records association for attempts to break the speed text messaging world record. And beaten it was, by a sixteen year old Singaporean student named Ang Chuang Yang, who thumbed out the passage in 41.52 seconds. This sterling effort beat the previous record of 42.22 seconds held by American Ben Cook since July.

Ang Chuang Yang says that the trick to getting a good speed is to use a phone with large keys. Well, no shit, Sherlock. I would also assume that it would be easier to use predictive text, but I imagine that’s not allowed by the Guinness organisation’s rules.

(Photo from News.com.au)

Ang says that he plans to aim for 39 seconds next year. His parents must be so proud of him, up there in his room practising his speed texting. If only he was texting a message to someone else.

Incorrect spelling for make no benefit glorious Kazakhstan bank note

In the ‘truth is often stranger than fiction’ category, this is the kind of publicity that Borat couldn’t buy. With Sacha Baron Cohen’s new movie about the hapless Kazakhstani due out next week, the nation of Kazakhstan itself has made a blunder that Borat himself would be proud of.

Borat, “Kazakhstan’s sixth most famous man”

Kazakhstan prides itself on its national language, having seen it as a national symbol since its independence in 1991, when it refused the option to take on Russian. However, the Kazakhstan central bank is planning to circulate new banknotes even though a spelling mistake has been highlighted. And not just any spelling mistake. They’ve misspelt the word ‘bank’.

They’ve used Cyrillic text (as used in Russian) for the word bank on the notes, but it is misspelt using an alternative Kazakh version of the letter ‘K’. Strangely, despite urgings from various political sides not to release the notes, the National Bank plans to release the 2,000 and 5,000 tenge notes throughout November, but will gradually replace them over the following months.

The first thing this makes me think of is the potential future value of those misspelt notes. It would be worth a few thousand tenge to put a few of each note aside somewhere and hang onto them until all the misspelt notes have been retrieved from circulation. You could then have something of a collector’s item on your hands. Of course, that’s assuming that not everybody thinks the same thing. Perhaps all these misspelt notes will enter circulation and never be seen again.

A number of MPs wrote to the Kazakhstan President, Nursultan Nazarbayev, urging him to tell the bank not to circulate the notes.

Nursultan Nazarbayev

The letter said, “We urge you to tell the National Bank not to put out the notes with a mistake in the Kazakh language… The mistake… is not just a spelling problem – it has political undertones.” The only real undertone I can see is ‘Kazakh bank can’t spell and doesn’t really care.’ I’m not sure why that’s political, but there you go.