Friday roundup: more blogs, Flickr, Nemi

So our blogroll is starting to settle down but we have a couple more additions.

North Downs and Beyond isn't related to language but it's written by my line manager and shows that it's possible for journalists to have lives outside their publications. Plus, even if you don't have much interest in "thoughts and reports of the natural world from north Surrey", the photography is nice – as you might expect from an art editor.

TootsNYC regularly comments on The Engine Room, and recently started up her own blog about words. Check it out – but remember to come back!


You may or may not have noticed, but The Engine Room now has a presence on photo-sharing website Flickr. At the moment all I've uploaded are some of the photos that you've already seen in my blog posts, but just as soon as I work out how to get the pictures off my mobile phone and onto my work Mac, then there'll be lots of new things to gawp at. I'll keep you informed.


Lastly, I really did intend not to carry on with the language-related comic strips, but then I saw this Nemi in yesterday's Metro (see, the London freesheets are good for something). As usual, click for a larger image...

Incidentally, I am currently taken with the word 'cruciform'.

I say, let the puppy die!

Vegetating happily at the seaside I no longer have to deal with butchered English on a daily basis (cheer up JD, the first 20 years are the worst*). But my torpor is occasionally disturbed by TV adverts.

No doubt charity appeals have to be powerful if they are to do their job but one animal charity has taken the theme of "give us the dosh or the puppy dies" to a new low. Showing viewers a series of victimised pooches is fair enough. Asking for a regular donation is fair enough. But the ad agency copywriter went a step too far with the promise that "if you sponsor a dog you'll receive a certificate and THE DOG WILL WRITE TO YOU". Seems to me that if a dog can read and write it can damn well go out and get a job like the rest of you.

*When I read this before posting it I fell to wondering if it shouldn't be "worse" rather than "worst", because if you're comparing two things, eg "the first 20 years" with the rest of your time in the engine room, worse would clearly be called for. Then I thought, "what the hell, I've retired" so I'm off to the beach.

Teachers, doctors, pupils and statistics

I love the ambiguity in this clipping taken from Personnel Today magazine (and sorry it's wonky, that's just my usual inability to cut and/or scan things straight):

Does this mean that 12% of teachers who have been attacked by a pupil subsequently needed to visit a doctor, or that 12% of teachers have been attacked by a pupil and subsequently needed to visit a doctor?

If you can't see or don't care about the difference, you might not want to become a sub...

Headline: Lorry Hijackers Sought

Our news editor has drawn my attention to a news story on Northern Ireland web directory 4NI which has an amusing if slightly worrying headline:

Lorry Hijackers Sought

It appears that criminal masterminds are becoming bolder in their recruitment techniques...

Monday round-up: web resources and Peanuts

I didn't manage a Friday roundup last week because I was still on my web design masterclass, so this is either a much delayed Friday roundup or a one-off Monday roundup depending on your preference.

Firstly, some web resources that were mentioned in my class and that could be useful to webmasters, web production staff or bloggers:
  • Image*After – a free image library, with no need to register. I usually use Morguefile myself, but this seems a good alternative.
  • iStockphoto – a cheap image library working on a credits system. Owned by Getty, I believe.
  • AccessColor – checks the legibility of text on any given web page. Seems that this here blog is just about legible.
  • Browsercam – test your site on any browser and operating system. It's a paid-for service, but a free 24-hour trial is available.
  • Web Page Analyzer – calculates the size of any given web page and the download time based on various download speeds.
  • Zen Garden – a smart example of what can be achieved through CSS. Although not by me.
You can find some other 'production desk tools' in the sidebar on the right of the blog (you will have to scroll down past the blogroll).

If none of the above is of interest, perhaps the following punctuation-themed Peanuts will appeal (and I know we had a subbing-themed Dilbert last week, but it's just a coincidence):

Commentator: 'It doesn't get better than that'

I'm currently on a two-day 'web design masterclass' and rather busy as a result, so today's post comes courtesy of an email that Chris Frumplington sent us a few weeks back. He wrote:

Here's something that amused me recently.

Snooker player, Ali Carter, beat Peter Ebdon on Wednesday. For the first time ever, Carter is through to the semi-finals of the World Championships.

The commentator (Clive Everton, I think, but don't quote me on that) said, "It doesn't get better than that."

But it quite clearly does: it gets much better if a player gets into the final, doesn't it? So, was this a journalistic gaffe or a mere error of logic? Or just another example of sports commentators getting carried away with themselves?

Thanks, Chris. It's been a while since we've had an amusing sports or sports commentator-related post:

Who nose who'll win?

Two TV bloopers

Daily Mail and Liz Goddard's 10-year-old baby

A rather unfortunate choice of pullquote and photograph in a Daily Mail anti-abortion story today. As you can hopefully see from the scan below, the photograph is of a mother with a baby; the adjacent pullquote reads:

'Doctors said he'd die in ten minutes. Now he's ten years old.'

So that baby's 10 years old. Huh? Such a severe case of arrested development doesn't exactly strengthen the anti-abortion argument. Admittedly, the caption below the photograph then explains:

Liz Goddard and Will, at seven months. Today he is a healthy ten-year-old

However not only is this page element much smaller than the photo or the pullquote (and therefore less likely to draw the eye), but it implies that Liz Goddard was seven months old when the photo was taken...

(Click on the image below to see a larger version.)

Typo of the week: allow wheels

Great typo in a vehicle specification submitted to the subs' desk:

Optional extra – allow wheels £2,900

Um, I would have thought that for a vehicle to be allowed wheels was more of a necessity than an optional extra.

It should of course read 'alloy wheels £2,900'...

Iron Man uses moderate language

We recently received the following email from Neil:

The Iron Man film trailer – which seems to give away WAY too much plot and is too long – says at the end in usual disclaimer-fashion: "Contains moderate violence and moderate language.”

All I have is visions of the so-called Iron Man talking in moderate English language like a Conservative politician: “Sorry to blow you up old chap”, “Get me out of this bloody suit!” etc...

Neil, the warning I saw actually read: "Contains moderate violence and one use of moderate language". So I am assuming that, apart from that one use, all of the dialogue in Iron Man is thoroughly immoderate...

Friday roundup: blogs and Dilbert

You may or may not have noticed, but this week I've divided up my blogroll (over on the right) into 'editingish blogs' and 'lingy/langy blogs'. The first category comprises blogs that are written by or for sub editors, and those with a slightly more prescriptive feel generally; the second category comprises linguistics, language-learning blogs, and those that are more descriptive.

Some blogs didn't fall neatly into either camp but I've done the best I can. If you feel I've wrongly classified your blog, let me know and I can move it over to 'the other side'.

Additions to the blogroll include Editrix, "a blog for editors, editors at heart, and anyone else who thinks grammar is hot". Apart from its disturbing fascination with American Idol, it's all good. I've also added The Russian Way, which looks at culture more than language but which is interesting for me as I spent some time in Russia teaching English as a foreign language.

Lastly, I hope I won't get sued if I reproduce the following subbing-themed Dilbert (click for a larger image):

'The most miserable, put-upon job in media'

Yesterday my line manager forwarded me on a link to a Guardian Unlimited blog post by Roy Greenslade regarding the future of subs ('copy editors', for those Americans out there). In it, Greenslade says: "I can see that they will be the first journalistic victims of the digital revolution."

Although I was a little disturbed that my line manager sent this on to me – is he trying to tell me something? – I was also amused by the comments that the blog post had attracted, many of them written by reporters or subs. Among my favourites:

The reason people become reporters is because they want to find out things and see their byline on important stories. This rarely goes in hand-in-hand with being an enormous pedant who loves words, has a dirty mind and suspects that everyone else constantly makes mistakes, which is what makes a great sub.


Subs, if you want to persist in the most miserable, put-upon, unappreciated and least perks-laden job in media, start coming up with ideas. You are the most talented members of staff, you must be able to do it. Tell the writers how they can improve, in a nice mentoring way, preferably in front of someone important. Make suggestions about improving the system and let the boss think it was their idea. Above all else, write stuff. They will find it much harder to get rid of you.

In which JD was right about stagflation

Has anyone read The Independent today – or even just seen the cover? I'm not known for my predictive powers but in a 'Word of the Day' post back in February I wrote:

I think 'stagflation' is a word we'll be hearing more of in the next 12 months

And this afternoon I spotted this:

Tune in tomorrow for more glimpses of the future...

Word blindness: H2Origin

I had a momentary attack of word blindness recently when subbing a news story about a Peugeot hydrogen fuel-cell van called the H2Origin. Obviously the name of this vehicle is a combination of 'H20' and 'Origin'; however looking it I could only think: "I know what H20 is, but what on earth's a rigin?'

The H20 rigin. I mean H2Origin.

These cops don't play bagpipes!

Mistakes inevitably creep into even the best run publications but few corrections have the whimsical charm of the following, spotted in the latest edition of the local paper that serves my seaside hideaway:

A fundraising concert by the band of Hampshire Constabulary, at Cowes Yacht Haven, did not feature bagpipes, as was stated in last week's Weekender.

No doubt the error was beyond the control of the sub who penned the correction, unlike the superfluous commas at either end of the yacht haven.

A Ten Hut!

When you live at the seaside you expect to find beach huts (in the UK at least, where small sheds on some exclusive beaches change hands for many thousands of pounds). But I was pleasantly surprised to discover that in sunny Sandown a breed of hutter has evolved with a yen for hut-related punning.

F'rinstance: Broken Hutted, next door to Romeo and Juliehut; It Ain't Half Hut Mum; Some Like it Hut; M'hut M' Sandy; Mad Hutters; Chalet Shan't I?; Hutterly Fabulous; Hut Tricks; Cornhutto; Home Is Where The Hut Is; Fly Emir Huts; Pos Hut Tive; Hutty Jaques; and (my favourite) Pier Huts of the Caribbean.

As well as names the huts are numbered, which might explain: Phawphawza, Arfafirty, FreeFreeza and, right next door, Sir Len [Hut Ten].

Not to be left out, the alleys between the huts are named too: Rhonddav; Don't Dileed; Sir Walter; and (in suitably shaped nameplates), Vertic, Diagon and Horizont. For a little variety I also spotted White Hut Lane and, inevitably, And Fine Alley, leading to Letsby Avenue, Gowonya Way and Yoovebeyn Court.

British seaside humour at its finest!

Friday roundup: typos, typos, typos

This week's Friday roundup is all about typos.

  • Copy editor Tim Stewart has been commenting on this blog recently, and his own blog, Typos in Print, might be one to watch – although it's too soon to say. Anyway, it's good to see another sub blogging.

  • One of our regulars, Garik, emailed in to point out this post on Language Log. Not quite the Log's usual bag, but there are some interesting comments about if and when it is acceptable to "make fun of people who make spelling mistakes".

  • Oh, and if you want to play 'spot the typo', check out the Priden Engineering website – but you'll have to be quick.

Word of the day: rifty

A strange word of the day today, in that I'm not sure who uses it, what it means or where it comes from. This copy was submitted to the subs' desk earlier this year by an English journalist based in the States:

It’s mid-morning on a bleak January Sunday in Detroit, Michigan, a city much favoured by producers of disaster films because they don’t need to spend much on dressing the set. It’s a rifty old place, boasting an ambient temperature somewhere south of very freezing

The context seems to suggest that rifty means 'cold', but I haven't come across it elsewhere before or since. My Concise OED and Google aren't much help either. Anyone out there use 'rifty' at all? Or did our writer just make a typo?

Detroit in winter is, apparently, rifty

Boris Johnson versus the travellers

So here in London we have a new mayor, the floppy-haired Conservative Boris Johnson (pictured below). I didn't vote for him. And yesterday's London Lite gave a good reason why I was right not to do so:

The Mayor has already announced plans to ban travellers from drinking alcohol on the Tube and to begin installing airport-style scanners in stations

I dunno, he's only been mayor two minutes and he's already picking on the Pavees...

I can't shake off Embarrassing Illnesses

I mentioned on Friday that last week was the most popular in the blog's history for an 'embarrassing' reason. Here's why.

Back in January one of our regular contributors emailed us about an advert she had spotted on her work intranet regarding an upcoming Channel 4 TV show called 'Embarrassing Illnesses'. I then wrote about this on the blog – and as well as mocking the central premise of the show, I also pointed out that the intranet advert at one point spelt the word 'embarrassing' with one 'r'. As I wrote at the time, everyone makes spelling mistakes, but come on – the word 'embarrassing' was in the name of the show...

So far, so ordinary. But on Monday last week, Channel 4 aired the first episode in the series (now going by the title 'Embarrassing Bodies') and the blog started receiving hundreds of hits from people Googling 'embarassing illnesses channel 4'. Note the single 'r'.

How ironic – by blogging about misspellings I attract people to the blog who can't spell.

Friday roundup: bank holidays, Hackney, URLs

A brief Friday roundup today because I want to go home and start enjoying the bank holiday weekend. After all, everyone on the production desk here has had to do six days' work in just the five days this week so I think we've all earned a rest. And if I haven't been replying to everyone's comments on this here blog with quite my usual alacrity, that's why.

The only recent addition to our blogroll is Baroque in Hackney, which one of our regulars recommended. It's written by a London-based poet and touches on all sorts of topics. And through Baroque in Hackney I've discovered Geoffrey Chaucer Hath a Blog, which quite frankly brings back too many memories of school for my liking but is certainly a labour of love. And what a great title.

I've also added the Tiny URL service to the Engine Room's list of production desk tools (somewhere down on the bottom right of the blog). You've probably come across it before, but it's a way of converting a long URL into a much shorter one. One of the London freesheets uses it occasionally, and I think our magazine is going to start doing the same. After all, it's not practical to print a 360-odd character web address in the magazine. Damn those government websites.

Finally, I'd just like to mention that this week has been easily the busiest in the blog's history – for quite an 'embarrassing' reason. Or should that be 'embarassing'? I'll tell you about it next week.

The Apprentice and the apostrophe

I know that I blogged about The Apprentice only very recently, but today I'm going to do so again – after all, it's not often that you see a debate over the positioning of an apostrophe on prime-time television.

For those who had the misfortune not to see yesterday's episode, the teams' task was to design greetings cards based around a new 'special occasion' of their choice. One of the teams decided to designate February 13 as a national day for single people, but had trouble deciding on the correct punctuation to use (see poll on the right).

At one point during the three or four hours of apostrophe-related debate (which, fortunately, was edited down for the benefit of viewers), team leader Michael Sophocles even attempted to phone the editor of national paper the Telegraph to ask his opinion. The nice lady at the British Library was a little more helpful but not too authoritative.

I've embedded some of the footage here (thanks, YouTube), so you can see what Sophocles finally decides. Enjoy!

BBC Apprentice website entry for week 6

UPDATE: Our friends at GrammarBlog have also been discussing this...