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Up against the wall.

Ms Thunberg says her message is 100% non-violent and I believe her. But when the water levels start rising; when a hundred million people start walking north, empty-handed and hungry, out of the Bengal lowlands; when Mar-a-Lago is smashed and it wasn’t even an official hurricane; when California’s inland crops fail; when the fires burn a third of Sydney; when Arizona real estate goes to zero; and especially, when some climate-change surprise nobody thought of wreaks deadly havoc in a place nobody expected, people are going to be put up against walls and not in Greta’s “Swenglish” sense, no not at all.

Tim Bray on metaphor and meaning.

This is in reaction to a bunch of conservative pearl-clutching over Greta Thunberg using the phrase “up against the wall” to describe holding world leaders accountable for climate apathy. She apologized, insisting that the phrase was intended to be non-violent and merely idiomatic in Swedish which, well. Yeah. It is in English, too. But the idiom still unambiguously evokes the image of a firing squad and, honestly, like Bray, I think the reason people freaked out over Thunberg’s usage is because they know—in their carbon-black hearty-hearts—that it’s going to turn out to be far more accurate than they would like…

2020-01-22T08:21:04+11:0016th May, 2020|Tags: climate crisis, language|


Contrary to your assumption, slurs are among the weakest insults. That’s why they can be reclaimed. No one stands up with fire in their eye and says, “Yes, I’m a poopyhead.” There are a lot of proud bitches out there though.

The power of a slur doesn’t come from the insult. It comes from the reminder that we exist in a system ready to put bitches back in their place. That’s not an insult but a threat. And the power of reclamation comes from facing that threat and persisting anyway.

Stephanie Zvan on slurs.

2019-10-23T08:42:33+11:003rd February, 2020|Tags: culture, language|

The thin red squiggle.

Does the proliferation of spellcheckers and autocorrect make learning to spell irrelevant?

Honestly, I think that’s the wrong question to be asking. I used to be an absolutely garbage-ass speller, for example, and no amount of worksheets or drills or “edutainment games” or whatever helped. The only thing that did? Word introducing the first squiggly-red-line-as-you-type spellchecker. That turned spelling into a kind of personal, no-stakes game for me; I’d feel good if I “beat” the spellchecker by remembering the correct spelling for a tricky word, but there were also no consequences if I didn’t (well, the “consequence” was a I got another look at the correct spelling to try and get it right for next time). I probably wouldn’t even really remember this apart from the fact it was apparently such A Big Deal at the time that my parents remember it and will happily tell this story to other Olds who whinge about Kids These Days Can’t Spell.

And this was, like, back in the 90s or whatever, so… nothing new under the monitor’s glare, and all that.

2019-04-29T12:06:40+10:002nd August, 2019|Tags: language, tech|