Newcastle Herald Butchery

Letter writers to the Newcastle Herald beware – they will without notice or care, edit and butcher your words when they publish your correspondence.

I’ve had four letters to the Herald published recently. Each time they have altered my words in some way, and in no case told me beforehand they were doing so. Up to now the changes they made ranged from inconsequential to mildly annoying, but this last time really got up my nose. On 6 June 2018 Brad Hill wrote:

FOOD for thought: a wind turbine will never produce as much energy in its lifetime as was used in building it. The mind boggles doesn’t it.

Now this might be true for a little wind turbine you buy from a hobbyist store to put up in your garden to power your electric gnomes, but for industrial scale electricity generation this is just mythical nonsense. (See for example a 2014 US life cycle study that shows that for a 2MW generator, the payback period is just 5 to 7 months.) Not wanting to just let this error go unchallenged, I wrote a carefully crafted, short 36 word letter to the Herald in which I wanted to make three points:

  1. The claim was outlandish.
  2. The claim was unsubstantiated.
  3. The Herald bore some responsibility for allowing this untruth to be published.

I submitted the following letter …

Brad Hill is right. My mind definitely boggles when I see published in the newspaper outlandish and unsubstantiated claims such as a wind turbine consumes more energy in its manufacture than it generates in its lifetime.

… but in spite of my brevity, the Herald saw fit to strip out two of my main points and on 8 June 2018 print this instead …

BRAD Hill is right. My mind definitely boggles when I see outlandish claims on the letters page, such as that a wind turbine consumes more energy in its manufacture than it generates in its lifetime.

I wrote to the Herald expressing my disappointment in how they had edited my letter and significantly altered my meaning, but they haven’t even bothered to reply.  It seems patently clear that the letters’ editor has no interest in truth, only in controversy.

Word of the Year

Macquarie Dictionary has chosen ‘milkshake duck’ as their word of the year for 2017. I find this choice a little odd, because before I read the announcement I had never heard or seen this phrase before. I’m guessing that’s because I’m not on FaceBook/Twitter/Instagram/etc, and that their ‘word of the year’ award is actually a ‘social media word of the year’ award.

So for the benefit of those of us who survive life without social media, I have instituted my very own word of the year award … and the winner for 2017 is …

metaphoric homonymous synonymity, n. Using two words that are spelled differently, but sound the same, and have different meanings, but can be used metaphorically to have the same meaning.

e.g. “Don Burke is a berk.”

Coincidence

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! 

Accusurance

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.

Ambivalent

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”.