I demand a recount

The Engine Room didn't make it into bab.la and Lexiophiles' list of the 'Top 100 Language Blogs 2010', but if you voted for us then thank you.

Although the list is dominated by teaching and translation blogs (which usually hold no great interest for me), a few of my favourite blogs are present - including Fritinancy and Sentence first. Well done!

I'm going to propose to Sentence first that we form a coalition and introduce the alternative vote system. In the meantime, do check out this year's top 100.

What do you call it when... someone's visual identity is unknown?

This query has been emailed into The Engine Room:

Is there a word which means that a person's visual identity is unknown? For example, the West End Whingers are often referred to as "anonymous" as people don't know what they look like. However, they are not anonymous as they really are called Phil and Andrew [the names given on the WEW website]. Is there a word for use in these circumstances?

Well, 'anonymous' comes from the Greek for 'nameless', whereas Phil and Andrew, I suppose, are faceless rather than nameless. However the OED defines faceless as "remote and impersonal", which isn't really what we're driving at. And whether it's true of the West End Whingers I wouldn't like to say!

Lots of other 'in-' or 'un-' words also spring to mind, such as 'incognito' or 'undisclosed', but none of them seem quite right. I imagine we're looking for another 'a-' word.

Any suggestions?

The bomb was placed in a taxi... twice

Nothing very exciting today - just a bit of image and caption duplication I spotted on BBC News a while back:

I like capturing mistakes like these, not so I can feel smug, but because they are often corrected so quickly (especially on the BBC website).

Somehow their ephemeral nature makes me want to preserve them for posterity.

Word of the day: crashworthiness

During my time working on B2B transport mags and now websites, I've come across some interesting transport-related words. 'Crashworthiness' is one of my favourites.

According to Wikipedia:

Crashworthiness is the ability of a structure to protect its occupants during an impact. This is commonly tested when investigating the safety of vehicles.

The OED online gives:

The quality in an aircraft or motor-vehicle that makes it safer in the event of a crash. So crashworthy a.

Its first quotation is from the Journal of the Royal Aeronautical Society in 1948. Interesting that three of the OED's four quotations put crashworthiness in inverted commas.

A quick Google search brings up a publication called the International Journal of Crashworthiness - what a great title. It dates back to 1996.

'50 odd people are being killed every single day'

According to BBC News (or more accurately, Pretoria News crime reporter Graeme Hosken), 50 odd people are killed every day in South Africa.

Sometimes it pays to be normal.

BBC News story about murder rate in South Africa

Absinthe friends

Through Fuelmyblog I've had the chance to sample some absinthe from Absinthe-Shop. What's that got to do with language use and journalism? Well, I could mention the (tired) stereotype of hard-drinking journalists, or talk about the connection between absinthe and writers such as Arthur Rimbaud and Guy de Maupassant. But really, I just wanted to try the absinthe.

What I got to sample was La Clandestine, a Swiss 'la bleue' absinthe (which is neither blue, nor indeed green, but clear). It also came with a metal absinthe spoon:

Absinthe spoon

Absinthe-Shop has this to say on the "traditional method" of preparing absinthe:

A 1 ounce / 30 ml measure (also known as a ‘dose’) of absinthe is poured into a glass. A flat, slotted spoon is placed across the rim of the glass and a sugar cube added on top of the spoon. Add — slowly — 3 to 5 parts iced water to the drink, pouring directly onto the sugar cube.

It emerges that in our modern society it is now harder to obtain sugar cubes than absinthe, so I had to use granulated sugar instead - which didn't work particularly well with the slotted absinthe spoon. (Talking of spoons, the next time you are in a greasy one, pocket a few sugar cubes. You never know when you might need them.)

Despite this hitch, the best part about drinking absinthe is the ritual. It's up there with making a pot of tea or brewing coffee with a French press - except more boozy.

For my girlfriend Sarah, who also took part in this madcap endeavour, the best part is watching the absinthe change colour. It starts off clear:

Clear absinthe before louche

Then, when the water is poured in, the drink turns opaque (and yes, magically transforms one glass into two):

Opaque absinthe after louche

This process is called the louche.

So I'd better talk about the taste. We tried the absinthe both with and without sugar because bleue absinthes often have a natural sweetness (I was told in the tasting notes). And actually, that turned out to be true - the absinthe was not at all bitter unsweetened. Sarah did find that "the sugar took away the alcoholic hit at the back of your throat".

Despite being promised an array of herbal flavours, all I could taste was anise - probably because of my undeveloped absinthe palate. Having said that, Sarah and I both found the absinthe surprisingly smooth, and we agreed that we would rather drink La Clandestine than ouzo, say, or Pernod.

Plus, you don't get to use a slotted spoon with any of those lesser anise-flavoured drinks.

And no, it didn't send me crazy.

Engine Room readers who want to buy absinthe or absinthe accessories get 10% off at Absinthe-Shop until 30 June. The offer excludes items already on sale or discounted. Input this voucher code into the box on the My Cart page to apply: FMBLUV10


Celebrity chef Antony Worrall Thompson is a man of few words. One word, in fact - and that word is 'gravadlax'.

Anthony Worrall Thompson says 'gravadlax' on BBC homepage

I spotted this on the BBC homepage a few days ago.

Yet more voting

Last year The Engine Room took part in bab.la and Lexiophiles' 'Top 100 Language Blogs' competition, coming eighth in the 'Language Professionals' category and 45th overall.

The 2010 competition is now under way and the blog is competing in the same category as before. User votes count for 50% of the final score so please vote for us (well, me) using this button:

Vote the Top 100 Language Professionals Blogs 2010

I'm not sure whether I'm even a "language professional" any more - probably not. But it's just a bit of fun - and a good way to discover some blogs.

Gordon Brown's legacy

BBC News has been running a story titled 'What is Gordon Brown's legacy?':

Nothing, apparently.

Sparse but beautiful, like a good decaf

Recently I bought a jar of Percol decaffeinated instant coffee (pictured below). On the back of the jar there's some blurb about Columbia Colombia, where the coffee is grown. I'm somewhat bemused by this sentence:

This landscape is sparse but beautiful in it's own way, like a good decaf.

Never mind the apostrophe - how can a coffee be "sparse but beautiful"? Sparse in flavour?

The coffee isn't bad, by the way, as instant decafs go.

Percol decaffeinated coffee

'Both the good and decent people'

This is what Labour MP Margaret Hodge had to say after BNP leader Nick Griffin came third in her constituency:

"This is really a great moment in our history, a never-to-be forgotten moment for both the good and decent people of Barking and Dagenham."

So there are only two good and decent people in Barking and Dagenham?

Why The Engine Room is a little quiet at the moment

For the past few months I've had an idea brewing for a new site/blog (sometimes it's hard to tell the difference between the two), and I'm just starting to turn it into reality using WordPress. This is my first experience with WordPress, so even if my idea turns out to be a stinker at least I'll have learned something new.

I don't want to go into too many details just yet, but when I have something halfway complete then I'll share it here. In the meantime, I might blog a little less frequently - but that doesn't mean I'll appreciate your comments and contributions any less.

Cameron cocks up

This picture of Conservative leader David Cameron went viral last week, but with election day on Thursday I think it's worth sharing:

Picture of David Cameron copyright Michael Schofield

Thanks to Gareth for sending me the photo, and Michael Schofield for taking it in the first place.