Thursday, August 23, 2007

Spooner or Later : Um ... a New Book on Verbal Blunders by Erard

Um ... er .... ah. Having trouble speaking or writing? Do you suffer from lips of the stung? Do you sometimes write there for their? You are not a loan. Life is a process of communication, beset with surprising linguistic obstacles.

Micheal Erard is "a journalist who writes mainly about language at the intersection of technology, policy, law, and science." He has a new book out Um...: Slips, Stumbles, and Verbal Blunders, and What They Mean.

Erard talks about those slips of the tongue that befall most of us at tome sime or another. It is an instructive world of verbal blunders made famous in our own day by US President Bush's "Dubyaspeak", which led to Erard's Um.

But the problem of dubyaspeak is older than President Bush. Former US President Herbert Hoover was, for example, also famed indirectly by a spoonerism, a lexical flip by radio announcer Harry von Zell, who referred to Hoover once as Hoobert Heever (read this account as a general lesson in evidence).

In his review of Erard's book, Dennis Lythgoe at the Desert Morning News writes as follows about "Um" and "Dubyaspeak":

"Erard became interested in the subject of verbal blunders during the 2000 presidential campaign, when George W. Bush’s malapropisms were referred to as “abnormal” in media reports. Erard thought critics were too hard on Bush, because he believes all of us commit verbal blunders.

He is convinced that making mistakes in speech is not a sign of a lack of intelligence. It is often caused by anxieties — people repeat words and restart sentences if they’re nervous. Or they may simply be accidental."

That may in part be confirmed at the blawg Yayarolly goes to law school, where "a 30-something's adventure in law school writes" in "Stick a fork in 1L, I'm done":

"Seriously. I'm tried. That's really the only way to describe what I am feeling right now. Not euphoric, not relieved, just tired. And a little concerned if my speech will ever be the same again... I've been spitting out spoonerisms over the last week like it's going out of style."

For more details about malopropisms , spoonerisms, and similar verbal blunders, see these reviews of Erard's book.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Finders Seekers : Dichotomy in Innovation

Art and Literature
have something to do with innovation.

Are innovators "seekers"? or "finders" ?
and does it make a difference ?

We refer here to the website Arts of Innovation
and its sister Arts of Innovation blog
which are described as follows:

"The author
Colin Stewart, innovation columnist for the Orange County Register, runs this Web site and the associated Arts of Innovation blog. He can be reached by e-mail at cestewart (at)

The researcher and the Arts of Innovation blog elaborate on research into the careers of experimental and conceptual innovators by University of Chicago economist David Galenson."
[links added]

Galenson is the author of
Old Masters and Young Geniuses:
Two Life Cycles of Artistic Creativity

which has been reviewed by Malcolm Gladwell as follows in Age Before Beauty:

"There’s a really wonderful book that’s come out by a guy named David Galenson, who’s an economist at the University of Chicago... There’s something very interesting and important to be learned about the way our minds work by entertaining the notion that there are two very different styles of creativity, the Picasso and the C├ęzanne."

Definitely worth a read and we have blogrolled them at Literary Pundit and LawPundit.

See also Inside Innovation

Monday, June 18, 2007

Vanity Fair and the Images in Mirrors

In Vanity Fair, William Makepeace Thackeray writes:*

"The world is a looking-glass, and gives back to every man the reflection of his own face." (p.8)

By the same token, society for its part rewards most highly those who mirror its own image:

"Vanity Fair -- Vanity Fair! Here was a man, who could not spell, and did not care to read -- who had the habits and the cunning of a boor : whose aim in life was pettifogging : who never had a taste, or emotion, or enjoyment, but what was sordid and foul : and yet he had rank, and honours, and power, somehow : and was a dignitary of the land, and a pillar of the state. He was high sheriff, and rode in a golden coach. Great ministers and statesmen courted him ; and in Vanity Fair he had a higher place than the most brilliant genius or spotless virtue." (p. 77, links added by LawPundit)

Not those who are "better" or "worse" are loved, but those who are mirrored faces of the beholder.

This mirror also determines how we view the rest of humanity and the groups within it.

Just a thought.

*From William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair, Penguin Popular Classics, 1994, first published in 1877

Monday, January 22, 2007

Short Book Review of Wordgloss

The following is our book review of Jim O'Donnell's book, Wordgloss : A Cultural Lexicon , which we have reviewed at

"Was this the wish of the Demiurge? Boston to Washington DC is a conurbation! Cui bono?! Do we live in a lexical dystopia awaiting a thaumaturgic gloss revival? Who today knows that "pleonasms are tautologous and should be avoided"? Errata need not be repetitive - a verisimilitude!

Do you need this book? Do you know the words?

Author Jim O'Donnell (book Foreword by John Banville) writes in his preface that "the extraordinary expansion of modern knowledge and its fission into micro-specialties" has created "a niagara of words and concepts flowing from a wide range of disciplines that we have never explored."

The everyday result is that our increasingly sophisticated modern world of communications is confronted by the Hydra-headed cultural stumbling block of a classics-based "verbal universe" manifesting an erstwhile lexical heritage to which most readers no longer have any personal or educational connection.

Wordgloss is not a quintessential corrective panacea for this problem, but O'Donnell writes that "Wordgloss is full of the words and concepts you always meant to look up. It tells you where they came from and how they acquired the meaning or meanings they now have."

The book is written "associatively", which is "pedagogically" more effective than the "linear" scientific style of dictionaries.
Definitely a fun and educating vade-mecum read.
Fons et origo!

Cosmology and Religion at Science a Go Go

Science a Go Go ( has a zippy website from down under devoted to "the latest science news, research tidbits and science discussion".

What caught my attention were their science book reviews. See:
Science a Go Go Book Reviews 2005
Science a Go Go Book Reviews 2006
for a good overview of what is going on in science,
through the medium of books.

Online book reviews, still fairly rare outside of e.g. Amazon,
or involving the payment of online fees for viewing, as at Antiquity magazine,
will surely play an increasingly greater role in science and literature,
and we were gratified to see Science a Go Go review our book Stars Stones and Scholars
on the same page as their review of Evolution: The Remarkable History of a Scientific Theory
by legal expert and Pulitzer Prize winning author Edward J. Larson (2006).

Tim Radford in an interview with Larson in the Guardian titled A Life in Writing: A Voyage to the Origin of Species, writes:

"Larson won the Pulitzer Prize for his Summer for the Gods, a book on the Scopes trial, in which American anti-evolutionists challenged science in the 1920s. He followed with Trial and Error, once again about the creation-evolution controversy. Right now, he is contemplating one book on the coming of telegraphy, another on Antarctica. Evolution's Workshop grew out of a preoccupation with the history of ideas, rather than of kings and presidents. In the course of looking at the progress of the great Darwinian idea, it seemed to him that the Galapagos were the Clapham Junction of biology: all sorts of people passed through.

"I believed that ideas in general are the most powerful thing in the world. An idea was more powerful than an army. In the western world it seemed to me that science was the criterion for truth," [Larson] says. "Darwin wrote his Origin of Species in 1859. At that time Queen Victoria was on the throne in England and James Buchanan was president of the United States. Now who has a greater impact on us today? How we think, how we live, who we are?" "

We agree.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Books Most Searched For in 2006

Gee, a lot of surprises in this list at of the most searched for books in the year 2006:
AbeBooks: The Most Searched For Books in 2006

Friday, January 12, 2007

ISBN Numbers have 13 Characters Starting January 1, 2007

Are You Ready for ISBN-13?
and the fact that:
"Beginning January 1, 2007, all books will be published with ISBN-13s."

Click this link to go the ISBN-13 Online Converter.

Not everyone needs this, but every reader of books should know about it, and most authors and readers out there probably are not yet aware of what is going on, so we alert to it here.

The reason for this posting is that a monumental change which affects the entire world of books on our planet started January 1, 2007 (actually, the sunrise period began in 2005). It is a change in ISBN numbers. ISBN numbers are the unique numbers given to books by publishers and used to order books wherever you order them as a user. The reason for this change was that ISBN was running out of numbers.

Take a look at the following numbers for our book Stars, Stones and Scholars where the ISBN-10 numbers (the ISBN-10's) have been converted by our publisher to ISBN-13 numbers (the ISBN-13's). These will be called ISBN-10s and ISBN-13s.

Stars Stones Scholars (softcover)
# ISBN-10: 1412013445
# ISBN-13: 978-1412013444

Stars Stones Scholars (hardcover)
# ISBN-10: 1412201357
# ISBN-13: 978-1412201353

ISBN-10 Numbers

Prior to January 1, 2007, ISBN numbers had 10 characters.
Those are the ISBN-10 numbers.

ISBN-13 Numbers

Beginning on January 1, 2007, ISBN numbers are 13 characters.
Those are the ISBN-13 numbers.

"Beginning January 1, 2007, all books will be published with ISBN-13s."

Important Links

Below are important links from ISBN for authors, retailers, publishers and everyone interested in books and the book trade:

"Are You Ready for ISBN-13?
  • An overview for publishers with the critical do's and don't and the recommended implementation timeline. Why is this transition taking place and how does it impact your copyright page, your book covers and your bar codes? Find out now.

Pubnet EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) 13-Digit Conversion News
  • If you receive EDI orders via Pubnet, be sure to learn more about changes needed to support EDI transactions.

BISG Resources on ISBN-13
  • The Book Industry Study Group, Inc. (BISG) ISBN-13 Task Force maintains this site as a source of authoritative information and recommended implementation guidelines for ISBN-13.

ISBN-13 Frequently Asked Questions (PDF)
  • Brochure from Bowker, the US ISBN Agency

Guidelines for the Implementation of 13-Digit ISBNs (PDF)

A BISAC Briefing on How to Manage the Transition (PDF)
  • Information from BISG on operations planning.
The readability score for this posting:
Gunning-Fog Index: 20
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level: 12
Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease: 41

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