Monthly Archives: April 2022

  • Humour and social media

    I’ve been on Twitter for 13 years now and there’s never a dull moment on the platform.

    One of my old college friends told me earlier this week he’d left the platform, describing it as a bear pit.

    Twitter can indeed by a rough and unforgiving place if one discusses politics and especially when one tries to debate with those with views diametrically opposed to one’s own. However, your ‘umble scribe has noticed over the decades that public discourse has become less respectful and courteous.

    Nevertheless, the Twitter is not all ursine-baiting gloom and doom. There are those who post photos of nature, their gardens, pets and the like which leavens the gloom and doom.

    Furthermore, there is a lot of humour on the platform too. Some of the best political quips I relate in other places have usually originated from Twitter.

    However, the humour extends to other fields than politics and its practitioners and can be gentler in such areas, as per the example below, which will appeal to lovers of language and English in particular.

    Tweet reads A truck loaded with thousands of copies of Roget's Thesaurus spilled its load leaving New York. Witnesses were stunned, startled, aghast, stupefied, confused, shocked, rattled, paralyzed, dazed, bewildered, surprised, dumbfounded, flabbergasted, confounded, astonished, and numbed.

  • Amid confusion

    One recent development your ‘umble scribe has noticed in respect of the vocabulary used by members of the Fourth Estate is an unprecedented rise in the use of amid.

    This preposition has the following definition:

    in or into the middle of;surrounded by.

    A useful synonym in this context is among.

    Other definitions include during and with the accompaniment of.

    Needless to say. these definitions are not always adhered to by the more illiterate members of the press and poor old amid is consequently used out of context, as per today’s example from the Powys County Times.

    Headline reads Historic Newtown church struck by vandals amid appeal for witnesses

    The confusion apparent in the headline was succinctly explained by the @KeepBristolTidy Twitter account, who helpfully stated the following.

    Tweet reads So the church was struck by vandals on the middle of the appeal for information about the same vandals?

    Our old friend The Guardian Style Guide has plenty to say about amid, including the following:

    Some cliches make the news sound tired; this one makes the news sound as if itโ€™s not news at all.
  • Patron saints and language

    Today, 23rd April, is the saint’s day of the patron saint of England, St George.

    <However, George is not just the patron saint of England. Other states and nations having this Cappadocian Greek who served as a Roman soldier and died in 303 CE include Ethiopia and Georgia, the Spanish regions of Catalonia and Aragon, along with the Russian capital Moscow.

    Very little is known about George’s life, but he is believed to have been martyred in one of the waves of persecution that preceded the accession in 306 CE of the Roman emperor Constantine.

    According to Wikipedia, the legend of St George and the dragon was first recorded in the 11th century in Georgia and arrived in Europe in the 12th.

    In England specifically, St George had by the 14th century, been declared both the patron saint and the protector of the royal family. and thus replaced Edmund the Martyr (also known as St Edmund or Edmund of East Anglia. Ed.) as England’s patron saint. Edmund, who died on 20 November 869 had been king of East Anglia from about 855 until his death at the hands of Viking invaders.

    George’s dragon-slaying efforts were ultimately worthwhile, not only for the the city of Silene, Libya, which the dragon was menacing, but ultimately for the English, as was pointed out yesterday on Twitter by some wit recalling WW2-style the benefits of the good saint’s deed.

    Tweet reads If it wasn't for St George we would all be speaking Dragon

    If you don’t feel like celebrating the life and work of George of Lydda, the 23rd April is also recorded as the day upon which playwright William Shakespeare was baptised.

  • Infant caprine security?

    Ever since newspapers mostly did away with sub-editors some while ago as a cost-saving measure, standards of written journalism have visibly declined. Poor punctuation and clumsy use of language have become more commonplace. Sub-editors used to play a vital role, helping reporters to become better writers and thus journalists.

    Nowadays, authors are supposed to check their own output.

    Even with the best will in the world, it is sometimes difficult to stop errors in one’s own copy.

    That being said, there is an absolute howler in today’s online edition of the Shropshire Star, as per the screenshot below

    headline reads Safety kids to be handed out to women in hot-spots for crime in Newtown

    Unless young goats really are to used to promote the safety of Newtown’s women and girls, which is not readily apparent from the subsequent copy, one would think that checking a headline before hitting the ‘Publish is a skill that should be taught on journalism courses. ๐Ÿ˜€

    The headline has since been corrected.

  • Free software explained in under 3 minutes

    Your ‘umble scribe has long been an avid user of free and open source software. For a long time, read for over 2 decades.

    Indeed, GNU/Linux (often simply termed Linux. Ed.) has been my operating system of choice for over 17 years.

    But what exactly do the terms free software and open source actually mean? How does software bearing these labels differ in comparison to the proprietary software used by most people and organisations? And finally, why does any of this actually matter?

    To answer these questions, the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) has recently produced the video embedded below. It takes under 3 minutes to watch and provides succinct answers to the questions posed above.