Saturday, March 16

Thoughts for life, in Blog Latin

Blogito, ergo sum. ('I blog, therefore I am.' Or perhaps 'I blogitate, therefore I am.')
With apologies to Descartes.

Blogeamus igitur, juvenes dum sumus . . . ('Therefore let us blog, while we are young . . .')
A latter-day version of the well-known student song of German origin (first line: Gaudeamus igitur, juvenes dum sumus -- 'Therefore let us rejoice, while we are young') traditionally sung in universities throughout Europe. The first verse goes on: Post jucundam juventutem / Post molestam senectutem / Nos habebit humus (loosely translated: 'After the pleasures of youth and the miseries of old age, we shall bite the dust.')

Qui me amat, amet et blogem meum -- 'Love me, love my blog.' (Qui me amat, amet et canem meum, Latin proverb -- '. . . my dog.')

Friday, March 15

Thought for the day

'Put it before them briefly so they will read it, clearly so they will appreciate it, picturesquely so they will remember it and, above all, accurately so they will be guided by its light.’
~ Joseph Pulitzer (1847–1911)

See ‘Tyrant, ranter... and hero of the press’, a review of Pulitzer: A Life by Denis Brian, at,6121,610075,00.html. Joseph Pulitzer, a self-taught Hungarian who went to America in an attempt to enlist as a soldier, is regarded as a pioneer of modern journalism. Having taught himself English, he was a newspaper publisher by the age of 25. His papers specialised in investigative journalism, exposing government corruption and wealthy tax dodgers. Under his editorial and business direction, The New York World became the largest circulating newspaper in the USA in the 1880s.

The Pulitzer Prize has established itself as the premier American award for arts and journalism since it was first awarded in 1917. Traditionally, the prizes have been associated with journalism, but more than 20 prizes are handed out each year, celebrating the best in photography, non-fiction and literature.
Confusing language (1)

'When I picked up my Ford Escort at the service station after
some minor repairs, I paid by cheque as usual. A couple of
weeks later I came home from work to find my fiancée quite
upset. She gave me the silent treatment until I worked out
why she was so angry. She had noticed the cancelled cheque,
and the stub on which I’d written "Escort service".'

(Adapted from Reader's Digest.)

¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤

Confusing language (2)

'What I have discovered is that the whole of language is structured to deal with the existential modalities of entities both real and reificational* -- and more importantly that the GRAMMATICAL DEVICES -- mode, case, pronominals, prepositions, adjectives, adverbs and all the rest of the interlocking and mutually interdependent grammatical categories are simply aspects of the codal mechanics of the lexical delivery systems that we use through the employment of language, to describe our own existential modality and the existential modalities of the other materia and nominative hypostatisations** with which we interact.' (91 words)

From 'Jud', a contributor to the Linguistics list today, on the subject of 'modal linguistic philosophy'. (The argument propounded at his web site,, is that 'to be' is not a verb, but a 'copula'. This proposition is 'the purpose of Analytical Indicant Theory' [AIT].)

Vocabulary notes

* To 'reify' is to regard (a person or abstract concept) as a material thing. 'Reification' is also used to mean 'depersonalisation', especially the kind Marx thought was due to capitalist industrialisation in which the worker is deemed to be the quantifiable labour factor in production, or as a commodity.
** To 'hypostatise' is to think of (a concept) as having concrete reality, to make it into or treat it as substantial.
(Sources: Longman's and OED.)

Thursday, March 14

The Infoscope: reality augmented with translation

In a New York Times article today (‘Point, Shoot and Translate Into English’, in the Technology section, 14 March 2002), Anne Eisenberg describes an ingenious new invention. It solves a common problem experienced by travellers: coping with foreign languages.

Dr R. Ismail Haritaoglu, a computer scientist at an IBM research centre in San Jose, California, has devised a cellphone or palmtop containing a colour digital camera that records text in the foreign language and transmits it to a server on the Web. There, software identifies and translates the words, sends English text back and superimposes it on the cellphone or palmtop screen. Cellphones with embedded cameras are already available in some parts of the world.

The device is intended for translation not of sizeable chunks of language, but of odd words, phrases and sentences –– up to three or four lines of text. In that it presents the real world (a Chinese shop sign, for instance) with virtual information (a translation of the sign) added as an overlay, Dr. Haritaoglu’s invention is an example of ‘augmented reality’. The user selects the part of the image that contains the words, just as a PC user would frame a section of a photo to be enlarged in a standard photo-editing program. The image is then compressed and sent to the server via the cellular network. The server carries out image processing, optical character recognition and translation from the source language (Chinese, French, Italian, Spanish or German, so far) to the target language (English).

Augmented reality means the addition of information other than translations, too. If a camera fitted with a Global Positioning System device is pointed at a building, the overlay can consist of a street map of the area where the user is standing. The potential of the technology is vast.

IBM is seeking to develop Dr. Haritaoglu’s prototype, called the ‘Infoscope’, with several companies that might want to provide image analysis, including sign translation. Dr. Henry Fuchs, a computer science professor and expert on augmented reality at the University of North Carolina, says that such translation devices will become even more useful in five to 10 years’ time. He envisions glasses with a miniaturised camera in the side-piece, and the display in the top edge.

Meanwhile, Dr Haritaoglu keeps testing his prototype, Anne Eisenberg writes. Recently, he has been trying it out in Chinatown, San Francisco, deciphering the Chinese characters for shark fin, ginseng and so forth. ‘I was surprised when I pointed the camera at one box labelled in Chinese,’ he is reported to have said. Back came the translation of the words on the price tag: ‘Buy one, get one free.’
The latest quarterly update to OED Online is now available at

Newly published material in the range "mid" to "Mirzapur" could help you to:
...migrate a million miles with the Milanese military
...mildly mill minerals in the Midlands
...feed mints to a miniature minotaur at midnight
...mirthfully mime a minuet with a minstrel
The full list of new and revised entries is available at

What is the origin of the term "ethnic cleansing", and when was it first used? Who was the first to coin the phrase "fashion victim"? Find the answers to these questions, and also discover more about the meanings of over 150 new words and senses outside the range of the mainstream OED revision - everything from "chattering classes" to "chocoholics", from "fantasy football" to "ball-tampering", from "executive decision" to "executive toy", and from "bog-standard" to "blow a gasket"! The complete list of out-of-sequence new entries is available at

Have you had a chance to take a look at the NEW ADVANCED SEARCH functionality that was introduced in January? Developed in response to feedback from users, the new features enable far more powerful and flexible searching of the Dictionary than ever before possible. We do hope that you will see for yourself just how easy it is to find answers to complex queries - and please alert your library users too! Full information and tutorial searches are available at

The March issue of OED News is now available at and can also be downloaded as a PDF file. One of the highlights of this issue is an article showing just how important information from readers is to OED lexicographers, and how the exclamation "Doh" was antedated as a result of a reader's contribution. Now we are asking if anyone can prove that the phrase to "do someone's head in" was used before 1989, or if to "get one's head round" was used between 1922 and 1981? If you can help, please e-mail

Oxford University Press is delighted to announce the imminent launch of Oxford Reference Online: The Core Collection ( Described by the UK national newspaper The Guardian as "a giant reference work that dwarfs any book in history", Oxford Reference Online: The Core Collection is a huge and comprehensive resource that contains 100 dictionaries and reference titles covering the complete subject spectrum: from General Reference, Language and Quotations to Science and Medicine, and from Humanities and Social Sciences to Business and Professional. Please see for further information.

Stand up and speak, be strong, rejoice,
With true, sweet clarity of mind and voice.

What is ‘English for you’?

It’s my brainbaby (too young to be called a ‘brainchild’ as yet). I call it E4U for short. You can read about its mission in the right-hand column on the home page.

And who do I think I am? (Or indeed, who am I? There's a subtle distinction for you!)

My name is Clare James. I have a BSc (Econ) degree and a Royal Society of Arts (RSA) Diploma in Teaching English as a Foreign Language to Adults. A native of the UK, now resident in Sweden, I have worked as an English-language consultant since 1977. I am an authorised public translator from Swedish into English, an EFL teacher, a writer and publisher, the founder and moderator of the Sweet Clarity list, an e-mailer extraordinaire (though I say it myself) -- and now a blogger!

What, then, is Sweet Clarity?

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