In any given day tens of thousands of bits of information come our way, so the occasional coincidence is inevitable. Even though they have no particular meaning, I’m still entertained by them. Like today when I visited the Auchmuty Library at Newcastle Library to look up some information in a book. As I ascended the stairs, I noticed the risers had been painted with book spines, and the name of the author “Herzog” caught my attention.

I went into the library and located the room and aisle and shelf where the book I needed should be, glanced at the top shelf to start scanning for the book I wanted, and what was the first author that caught my eye? Herzog! 


I have a grand (and probably unattainable) dream of inventing a word that will make its way into widespread usage in the English speaking world. I’ve tried with “unvaporia”, “shufflendipity”, “unprivacy”, “undergommed”, “disagreeaphobia”, “eco-busted”, “optionitis”, and “misambulist”.

I’m now having a try with …

accusurance. noun. A word or phrase that can either be an accusation or a reassurance, depending on the tone of voice you use.

As an example, in Microsoft SharePoint 2013 and later, if you initiate an action that doesn’t complete immediately you get told that the system is “Working on it …” along with the reassuring message that “This shouldn’t take long.”

Usually it doesn’t take long, but sometimes it does. Sometimes it drags on interminably, and leads to an accusatory response by the user of “This shouldn’t take long!”

Another example of accusurance is the phrase “nice one”, which can either mean a reassuring and gentle expression of appreciation, or a sarcastic accusation of having f***ed up.


In a post earlier this month I used the word “ambivalent ” when talking about iTunes upgrades. A lot of people think of “ambivalent” as meaning not having a strong feeling on some matter. More correctly, ambivalence is when you have two conflicting feelings at the same time.

A good example of ambivalence is the music that retailers play in their stores. Undoubtedly they target the music they play in the background to cater to the tastes of the demographics of customers in their store, and to make them buy more stuff. I suspect they even fine tune it by the day of week and time of day, so that the music that gets played 10am on a Monday morning will be different to what gets played 3pm on a Saturday afternoon.

Yesterday's Hero (song) by John Paul Young.jpgSo when I was in Bunnings the other day and John Paul Young’s “Yesterday’s Hero” is played, I am both simultaneously delighted to be hearing my favourite song of 1975, (and knowing that JPY will be collecting a few cents more in royalties), but at the same time disgusted that a retail behemoth is trying to mess with my mind and affect my buying behaviour. Ambivalence.

Now in a curious coincidence an interview with JPY appeared in the Newcastle Herald today, in which he recounts how he was in Bunnings the other day and was recognised, but only as someone “who looks like John Paul Young.”

Still no drinks for miners

Yesterday was the annual “Voice for Mining” day at the Knights home game at Hunter Stadium, but as in past years, they’re still not letting those hard working employees enjoy a game day beverage. Listen for yourself.

Maybe it was this amber ale injustice that the crowd was booing about at half time? No. Wait. That was for the Knights abysmal wooden spoon worthy first half performance.



The McMystery of the turned comma

In looking at old newspaper articles on Trove, I have often come across surnames that started with a capital M followed by what I thought was an apostrophe. For example, M’Michael, M’Ewan, and M’Dicken.

It was only through an email conversation with Robert Watson today, and looking a bit closer that I realised that it’s not an apostrophe, but an inverted comma. I wondered whether this was a typographical convention to use the inverted comma instead of a superscript C, and whether those names were actually McMichael, McEwan, and McDicken?

A bit of searching proved my guess correct. Michael G. Collins, in his academic paper “M’Culloch and the Turned Comma” writes

But two or three centuries ago, not all printers setting type by hand would have had a lower-case superscript “c” in their repertoire. John Smith’s eighteenth century Printer’s Grammar indicates that most printers’ “founts” would not have included a “superior c”, and suggests that the “inverted comma” was a substitute for it. To make do, therefore, printers apparently took the piece of type for the comma, and turned it upside down when representing either “Mac” or “Mc ”. Thus the comma [,] when flipped, became [‘] – a poor man’s superscript “c”.