La saisie intuitive, prisée sur les téléphones portables, peut donner des résultats déroutants, pas intuitifs du tout.

En ce qui me concerne, moi, j’ai trop de salade à la maison.

My landlady here in London — I’m renting her spare room while looking for a more permanent place — left for a week-long business trip early this morning. So I wasn’t surprised to find a message from her with last-minute instructions. Understanding it, however, posed an unexpected problem.

The first half of the message was clear enough — an invitation to help myself to any vegetables left in the kitchen. Very nice. The second part, though, read as follows:

Pocket go big bag on kitchen floor can be pulled off stems and 10 mins soak go cold water will revive it

My esteemed readers are probably just as baffled as I was. But I had two or three additional pieces of information at my disposal which, after a minute’s contemplation and a search of the kitchen floor, allowed me to unravel the mystery:

  1. My landlady is a native speaker of English and an editorial writer by profession.
  2. She is an avid gardener and very much into fresh home-grown food.
  3. The message arrived via SMS (”text message”) on my mobile (AmE: cell) phone.

From 1. we conclude that this was not another case of wood flower picks sea cucumber hoof, but simply the result of her being in a hurry.

Number 2 confirms or at least suggests that the topic of the message was garden vegetables (as opposed to, say, voodoo).

Finally, 3. sends us on the right track as to what went wrong. Indeed, over here in the UK, most mobile phones are equipped with predictive text input systems, T9 and the like. And these systems are usually rather crudely based on global word frequencies, without taking context into account. I’ve noticed myself that whenever I’m texting “me”, my own (Nokia) phone will invariably prefer “of”. And the other day, I nearly replied to a text inquiring about my whereabouts saying that I was “at H&M buying rocks”. (Do people really text so much about rocks?)

So “go” isn’t “go” at all — it’s “in”! Furthermore, the key with the letter P also houses Q, R and S. And wouldn’t you have thought it, under the kitchen table there was a carrier bag filled with a huge bunch of rather sorry looking greenery. Resolving two textonyms was all it took.

I’m typing this from the kitchen table — three cheers for wireless broadband — while the rocket (also called arugula or rugola, French: roquette, German: Rauke or Raukelkohl, Italian: rucola, ruccola, ruchetta or rughetta) is recovering in the sink. Here’s a photo of the revivification process about a third way through:

rocket salad being picked and revived in cold water

Enough salad to feed an army. Not to mention the other huge bag full of Swiss chard (French: blette, German: Mangold). I think I need a recipe.

Oh, and does anyone have an idea what that exotic fruit to the left of the tap might be, and how to prepare it? It doesn’t look like it’s going to survive the week either…

[The spell-checker didn’t know: texting and textonym; and it’s indeed arugula, not jugular.]

Animal language

Les actualités concernant ces singes qui utiliseraient des «phrases» — resutats de recherche de crédibilité douteuse, il faut le dire, me rappellent le devoir de toute blogueuse qui se respecte : publier ses googleries, de temps en temps.

  • 2006-05-23
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The latest batch of news from the “talking animals” department, and the exasperation it is met with by the linguabloggers reminds me that I neglected to post a particularly expressive keyphrase for a search engine hit that brought someone to my site back in January 2006:

talking seals|rats|dogs|unicorns|horses|animals language log

At the time, I thought this was better than Mark Liberman dopebook or occitan autocollant [autocollant means “sticker”] or apostrophe europe or couilles epingles [épingles means “needles”, and you can look up couilles yourselves]; and more constructive than chirac en prison mp3 download or les angicismes - un problème? or horiflamme shape or chinese words such as serendipity.

(And then there’s the search term that asks the thorniest question of all, and that, unsurprisingly, keeps returning in various guises: nutella masculin ou feminin. Dear visitors: it’s supposed to be masculine, but why, I don’t know.)

(I swear on my copy of CGEL that all these search terms are authentic. And I particularly liked the unicorns.)

(Beautiful French neologism to note down: googleries.)

Loonicode+0003 by Pat Hall

My friend and resident Unicode advisor Patrick Hall, when not busy getting the blogosphere on the road towards mutually translating itself, has branched out into the comic strip genre.

I fully admit that I lent a hand (or rather, a few brain cells) in the naming process, but the idea is all his: three-panel strips that feature glyphs from the vast set covered by Unicode and named the way Unicode characters usually are: “U+” plus the hexadecimal number of the character’s code point.#[1]

So check out Loonicode. And badger Pat not to stop at the third instalment!

(What does it say about my geekiness level that these comics give me uncontrollable fits of giggles?)

[The spell-checker didn’t know: geekiness.]


[1]: On my Gnu/Linux system with a Gnome desktop, the code point allows me to enter the character: I hold down SHIFT plus CTRL at the same time, type the hex code, and release the two keys. If I have an appropriate font installed, the character appears. Here’s U+1DC2 COMBINING SNAKE BELOW, enlarged a bit: . I sometimes use this feature for entering IPA. Our good friend LATIN SMALL LETTER SCHWA (ə), for example, is U+0259.

London signage 02: Dummy “it” in non-parallel construction.

Deuxième partie de notre série sur les panneaux londoniens. Celui-ci pose un problème de syntaxe.

For our second instalment let’s turn our attention to a bit of syntax. This sign adorns a narrow footpath from Charing Cross train station down to the river Thames: If we give the first sentence its final punctuation back and try to group together what goes together, we get, on the surface, this: [It [is an offence […]

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What misspellings can tell the reader about the underlying speech: This shop on Portobello Road had three or four hand-written signs indicating the prices of various types of “scalf”: No rhotic speaker (who would pronounce the R in scarf) would have chosen this spelling.

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This is London!

Version ramassée : j’ai posé ma tente à Londres, ville où il fait bien vivre ; je présente mes excuses pour la sécheresse blogique par ici ; une petite série légère basée sur mes photos de panneaux londoniens et parisiens devrait réanimer ces pages ces jours-ci.

For once there is a good excuse for this latest bout of silence on Diacritiques: For the last month I’ve been in London, after a somewhat hurried move across the Channel. Indeed, if everything goes well, I’m here to stay. I manage to be insanely busy just settling in, searching for permanent work and in […]

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