Saturday, 28 September 2013



This startling snippet leapt out at me from a Times Magazine article just now. 'A single drover?' I thought, 'WTF!' – meaning, of course, 'What a Tremendous Fart'. Silly me, though, there was a word-space saving it from that hyper-flatulent meaning. But I wondered why the sub-editor had gone for that unnatural choice of words.

I looked in the text, and read this:
A herd of cows daily produces more greenhouse gas than a family car driven for 3,000 miles.
Now look back at the misleading subhead: it is in a 3-line box, with first and third lines very tight. 'A herd of cows' is three letters and a wordspace longer than 'a cow herd'. A monospace typeface such as Courier (in which an N takes up as much space as an M, and an I as much as an O, rather than the sort of proportional font that we are more accustomed to in print) accentuates this:

A herd of cows
versus  A cow herd
And if you made space for those three extra letters and one extra space by moving 'more' down to the second line, then that line'd be too full. So whether or not the medium is the message, the medium can certainly change the message in all sorts of risible (and/or calamitous) ways. I expect examples of the latter will come to me, but it's coming on to rain, and the washing's out.

(Just a quickie to let you know that work on V5.0 is under way, and V4.0 is still free to download!†)

Update, 20- – Added this PS:

And while we're on the subject of flatulence, I was dumbfounded by the ignorance and cultural insensitivity of the English-speaker from (or at least, resident in, Wales) who is reported as having said (one has to be careful – it was the Mail Online):
 'Just imagine how embarrassing it will be to have the word "fart" in your village's name .... I'd be humiliated every time I told someone my address'.
Oh dear.... The alleged speaker was not Hyacinth Bucket, but 'Sioned Jones' (who, with a Welsh-sounding name like that, should be ashamed of herself). OK, there'd be some sophomoric titters and photos of signposts, but that's par for the course when languages rub along together. It is, for example, only the most po-faced and socially insensitive English-speaking pedant who gives Immanuel Kant his native vowel; it's uncomfortably close to a taboo word.

The article 'explains' the problem:
Campaigners say the ancient name should be replaced because there is no 'V' in the Welsh language
And I'll spell out the URL, as it is a gem::  – which invites the rejoinder 'No, it's not the making of butt-jokes they're worried about, it's fart-jokes.'

In fact, that explanation is a bit of an over-simplification. The written Welsh language has no letter 'v'. Welsh does have a voiced labio-dental fricative phoneme, to give it its $10 name; it has a /v/, and that phoneme is represented in writing as a single letter – which explains that old Ffion joke:
<political_history egg_sucker="grandmother">
Ffion was William Hague's wife, and he was PM at the time.
'Why are there two 'f's in Ffion?'/ Because there's no effin' Prime Minister' – /f/ is written 'ff'.

In short, when languages come together,  there is scope for double entendres. I'd rather live in a world with a bit of lavatory humour than in a world bereft of its minority languages.

Update 2013.09.30.09:45 - Added this PPS

And it's just occurred to me that that Ffion joke underlines my point about double entendres happening when languages meet (and if you thought I chose it because of that I'm sorry to disabuse you): here the two languages are the meta-language that addresses spelling and the informal speech that uses such defused (and so inoffensive) obscenities as "effin'".

Update 2013.10.02.15:55 – added this note:
Not any more

Update 2013.10.04.10:05  – added this note:
 I've only just appreciated the stupidity and insensitivity of this subhead. I might have guessed, given that it's the Mail. The 'ancient name' is 'Farteg'. A handful of centuries (maybe 6 –7 at the outside) doesn't qualify for ancientness. Farteg was called Farteg long before the Mail's Year Zero, 1066.

Update 2012.10.15.14:40  – Footer updated

 Mammon (When Vowels Get Together V4.1: Collection of Kindle word-lists grouping different pronunciations of vowel-pairs – AA-AU, EA-EU,   IA-IU, OA-OU, and – new for V4.1 – UA-UE.  If you buy it, contact  @WVGTbook on Twitter and I'll alert you to free downloads of the forthcoming volumes; or click the Following button at the foot of this page.)
And if you have no objection to such promiscuity, Like this.

Freebies (Teaching resources: nearly 32,400 views**,  and  4,400 downloads to date. They're very eclectic - mostly EFL and MFL, but one of the most popular is from KS4 History, dating from my PGCE, with 1570 views/700 downloads to date. So it's worth having a browse.)

** This figure includes the count of views for a single resource held in an account that I accidentally created many years ago.

No comments:

Post a Comment