Friday, January 23, 2009

Keys In Their Place(s)

This is something very small, but I feel like I should have known it by now. On German and English keyboards, the "Z" and "Y" keys are in the opposite places.

I knew there were extra characters for accented vowels -- but I'd never noticed the Y and Z. Makes perfect sense, though -- Z is a much more common character in German than English, while Y is much less so.

(By the way, isn't that Torpedo handsome? The one below is my favorite. Via.)

Friday, January 16, 2009

What I'm Thinking About

Cornelia Vismann, from Files:

Those who work with records are familiar with the problem: files pile up on desks, accumulate in offices, and fill attics and basements. Though registered, their order collapses time and again; though collected, quashed, dispatched, sold, shredded, or destroyed in some other way, they keep mushrooming. Their incessant proliferation seems a natural phenomenon. Masses of paper arise and merge into mountains that join together to form entire mountain ranges. Floods of paper empty into oceans: ravines flanked by shelves cut through impassable terrain. Those brave enough to traverse this paperscape measure the amount of files in meters, kilograms, or basket loads. As a rule, however, it is impossible to count the number of files, for unlike books, files are not discrete or enumerable units. They can appear in all shapes and forms: as loose pages, lying in little boxes, wrapped in packing paper, or enclosed in capsules; they may present themselves as bundles tied with a string or assume the shape of vertical folders ready to enfold anything that can fit between two paper covers. Reference may be to a single file, a procedure covering several files, or the entire content of an archive. Files are the variabIes in thc universe of writing and the law.

Took A Long Time to Come

The Zombies, "This Will Be Our Year"

Saturday, January 03, 2009

The Renaissance: It's New To You!

A few new blogs in my RSS on the early modern period, esp. history of the book: Mercurius Politicus and Wynken de Worde. WdW won the Cliopatria Award for Best New History Blog -- I think I found MP through WdW. Anyways, already some of my favorite book/academic blogs to read, well worth checking out.

Friday, January 02, 2009

The Sighing Motorway

-- The Clientele, "Reflections After Jane"

News In Language

It's becoming clear that the continuing raison d'etre of Short Schrift is as a repository for posts that are too nerdy for Snarkmarket -- which is to say, very nerdy indeed.

So! Here is the latest in the world of language, ranging from least to most nerdy.

  1. Lexical Gap. Paul Krugman's looking for a word to describe Alberto Gonzales's self-pity: "I consider myself a casualty, one of the many casualties of the war on terror." Krugman's definition-in-search-of-a-concept: a "person who considers his mild discomfort the equivalent of torture, crippling injury, or death for other people." Bonus nerd points: I spent a half an hour combing the OED in search of such a word. No dice. (Besides "self-pity.")
  2. Slate actually has a really good article about different takes on spell-check technology, contrasting Word's highly prescriptive (and in-principle highly limiting) to Google's highly descriptive (and in-principle highly permissive) approaches. I actually think that Google's algorithm-driven model could actually be tweaked to be more vigilant than Word, especially by finding and flagging common errors in phrases where homophonic misspelling is rampant. But would normalizing spelling at the level of the phrase just reinforce clich├ęs? I think about this stuff a lot.
  3. The International League of Antiquarian Booksellers has the great reference work ABC for Book Collectors available as a PDF, free to download for noncommercial use. What's great about the ABC is that it's actually fun to thumb through, especially if you like the dry reductive wit of a relatively disillusioned Cambridge scholar and book lover. (Rachel, I'm looking at you.)