What the hqiz is a skeuomorph?

Is it this?


Nah, that’s the xenomorph from the almost-forgotten TV drama, “Something is Out There.” For what it’s worth, it was quite terrifying at times, but noteworthy as it used this term long before the “Alien” franchise was born.

This is a skeuomorph:


It will be easily recognized as the universal “save” icon in many computer programs. But floppy disks are no longer used for saving things (for the most part,) and many young people have probably never even seen or held one.

Wikipedia defines a skeuomorph thusly:

[It] is a derivative object that retains ornamental design cues from structures that were necessary in the original. Examples include pottery embellished with imitation rivets reminiscent of similar pots made of metal and a software calendar that imitates the appearance of binding on a paper desk calendar. The term ‘skeuomorph’ is compounded from the Greek: skéuos, σκεῦος (container or tool), and morphḗ, μορφή (shape). It has been applied to material objects since 1890 and is now also used to describe computer and mobile interfaces.

Webster’s 3rd International Dictionary contains 472,000 words, of which I know but a fraction. Despite the fact that my education has not been wanting and it takes a concerted effort to get me scurrying to the dictionary, this was a new one on me and I learned it over at reddit. It’s kind of like octothorpe, the ten-dollar word for the hash mark, number sign, or pound sign (#) now so commonly used at Twitter and elsewhere. #insanity

Some other examples of skeuomorphs:


An electric kettle in the form of a stove-top kettle.


This woody-style car, where the false wood grain is not part of the vehicle’s structure.


Sofware interface for an audio program, designed to look like a physical device.

What got me thinking about this is a picture of some really old candy-heart type floppy disks that must have been manufactured in the 80s or thereabouts:

candy disks

Back then, these would have been much more recognizable than they are today.

So remember that the next time you click on the little disk icon to save your document, you’re using a skeuomorph.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Dialect variations in nomenclature – the US vs. Germany

One of the more interesting terminology diversions in the US has to do with what you fill up your jug with at the convenience store. No, not that “good ol’ Mountain Dew,” although that can certainly be one of your choices, but anything sweet and fizzy. What do you call it? Soda? Pop? Coke? Fizz? Something else?


People registered their opinions over at popvssoda.com, and the results were tabulated. I knew one guy who called it “soda water,” even though to me that means just unflavored club soda.

Today as the result of a little discussion among my translation colleagues, I was presented with this website that shows the distribution of various terms for “potato” in German:


While most people would find things like this less exciting that watching paint dry (and even I myself, graduated linguist with advanced degrees absolutely detested my 7th-grade linguistics class, even though that’s a different story), I find comparative and social linguistics intriguing.

Think about what you call things; Crawdad, crayfish, crawfish; potato bug, pill bug; hoagie, sub, grinder, or po’ boy; water fountain or bubbler; so many, many others, and some of these are distinctly regional. Take the quiz and see how well it does in your case. Naturally it’s not going to be 100% perfect all the time, but I was impressed not only by the results but by the nature of the questions.

The New York Times dialect survey has shown to be amazingly accurate in my own case:



I was born and raised in New York, but have spent the last 46 years in Utah; you couldn’t get more spot-on with my diagnosis.

The study of linguistic diversity across boundaries and how language evolves is an entire subset of the larger field, but I could think of much less interesting ways to spend a career than researching these matters.

The Old Wolf has done spoke.

The Many Origins of the English Language

Stumbled across an amazing interactive chart showing the various influences which affected the development of the English language over time, and felt it was worth sharing.



The picture above is a static capture of the cumulative results; if you want to explore in more detail, have a look at Lexicon Valley. The author, Philip Durin, writes,

The elephant in the room, however, is how Latin and French dominate the picture in just about every period. Even the Anglo-Saxons borrowed from Latin (e.g. fork, street,wine), and ever since the Norman Conquest English has been borrowing hugely from French and Latin—quite often taking the same word partly from each of these languages, especially in the medieval period. Words like government, pay, science, orwar (from French), or action, general, person, and use (French and/or Latin) have become an indispensable part of English. Even among the 1000 most frequently used words in modern English, not far short of 50 percent have come into the language from French or Latin. Numbers do not always tell us everything, though: the total of loanwords from early Scandinavian is relatively low, but the language of the Vikings has left some of the most intimate traces in the vocabulary of English, with words likeleg, skin, sky, and even they, their, and them.

This is an intriguing overview, and now I’m anxious to get a copy of his book, Borrowed Words.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

America: Beautiful in any language

I recently posted about my experience watching two of my friends become American citizens. Now comes the Superbowl with its spate of commercials, one of which has generated some sentiment that absolutely should not exist in this country.

It’s a simple concept. People of various nationalities singing “America the Beautiful” in their own language. But for sheer ignorance, have a look at some of the Twitter comments recently posted about this commercial:

  • The Coca-Cola Co. Should apologize for the ridiculous #SuperBowl commercial #AmericaTheBeautiful should ONLY be in one language #English
  • Heres List Of ALL #Coke Products-BOYCOTT! Our Language Is #English Not Turkish! http://www.coca-colacompany.com/brands/all/ #SuperBowl #Broncos #SeaHawks #sports
  • Really glad I drink @Pepsi and not @CocaCola because that commercial was just AWFUL next time #ENGLISH please! #SB48 #SuperBowl
  • If you want to come to this country fine we welcome you BUT your going to sing America The Beautiful in #ENGLISH & drink #PEPSI #SUPERBOWL
  • I don’t think a commercial that sings in other than #English is a good idea #SuperBowl am not gonna buy ur product anymore
  • WTF?  @CocaCola has America the Beautiful being sung in different languages in a #SuperBowl commercial? We speak ENGLISH here, IDIOTS.”

The xenophobia and ignorant racist vitriol being spewed out onto the Internet breaks my heart. Yet these people seem to have no problem driving down Via Verde Avenue in their Prius to go eat Pizza with their Swedish girlfriend… the intellectual and spiritual disconnect is very difficult for me to get my head around.

Some statistics would probably not be amiss here. The 2010 census reports:

Americans 308,745,538 100.0 %
White 223,553,265 72.4 %
African American 38,929,319 12.6 %
Asian American 14,674,252 4.8 %
Native Americans or Alaska Native 2,932,248 0.9 %
Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander 540,013 0.2 %
Some other race 19,107,368 6.2 %
Two or more races 9,009,073 2.9 %

Of that total, 16.4% are of hispanic or latino ancestry. That’s close to two out of every 10. Moreover, have a look at the 15 largest ancestries of these oh-s0-proud Americans:


It wouldn’t be surprising if the real names of some of these uneducated and small-spirited bloggers were Jorgensen, DeSalvo, O’Shaunessy, Kang, or Graumann. If they’re taking pride in being called Jones, they may well have forgotten their Welsh ancestry.

Kris Kristofferson has Swedish ancestry. The Governator is from Austria. Rocky Marciano was Italian. Bruce Willis was born in Idar-Oberstein, West Germany. Walter Cronkite had Dutch ancestry. Robert Zemeckis had Lithuanian ancestors. Gene Simmons was born in Israel. My own grandparents came from Tuscany and Calabria. America the beautiful, the open, the welcoming, the free – it has always been and will always be a melting pot of cultures, races, languages and ideologies. We must never forget the words of Emma Lazarus:


Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

“The New Colossus,” 1883

As our nation grows in population and we deal with issues of unemployment and the social well-being of our citizens, the issue of immigration must of necessity be dealt with in a rational and humane way, giving priority to those who enter our country through legal and approved channels – but we must never become a nation where ugly and brutal nationalism is allowed to become a vehicle for the demonization of any race, creed or culture. Our national language is English, and those immigrants who have been most successful are the ones who have assimilated rapidly, learned the language and the culture of their adopted home, and mainstreamed themselves and their children. But remembering and honoring their cultural heritage is also a big part of who they are, and how they interact with and contribute to the nation.

If you’re going to insist on English only, you must by rights exclude yourself from ever eating at Acquerello in San Francisco (in fact, you must refer to it as Saint Francis, and no one will know what the hqiz you are talking about) or Piccolo Angolo in New York; you are prohibited from ever driving a Porsche or a Mercedes-Benz; you may never refer to a shiatsu massage or a reiki treatment; you can’t drink vodka; taboo is taboo; you can never again use ketchup; and heaven help you if you want to eat fondue.

For the love of whatever you hold sacred, fight racism, exclusionism, nationalism and xenophobia with every fiber of your being. Every American citizen in this country is entitled to the same respect and status – remember, in the end, – with the exception of Native Americans who were here long before the Mayflower – we all got here on a boat one way or another.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Faites-vous du remue-méninges?

From Vie Moderne, date unknown

(This article is in French. The title translates as “Do you brainstorm?”)

Pursuant to my previous post, I provide here a list of French terms for the broadcast industry which are recommended to replace their English counterparts. I’d be curious to know how well they have done in exterminating these heathen terms from their vocabulary over there, or if they still have people using English terminology on a regular basis.

Une liste de nouveaux termes et expressions destinés à remplacer les mots étrangers fréquemment employés dans le domaine de l’audiovisuel et de la publicité a été publiée au Journal Officiel, le 18 février dernier.

Ces néologismes seront obligatoirement utilisés à compter d’un délai de trois mois suivant la publication de cet arrêté dans les décrets, circulaires, diplômes, instructions émanant des ministres et des fonction­naires de l’Etat placés sous leur autorité.

Un délai plus long, six mois, est accordé pour l’utilisation de ces néologismes dans les correspondances “et documents des ad­ministrations; dans la rédaction des con­trats et marchés avec l’Etat; dans les édi­tions ou rééditions des ouvrages de renseignement, de formation ou de recher­che utilisés dans les établissements dépen­dant de l’Etat, soumis à son contrôle ou bénéficiant de son concours financier.

Voici ci-dessous une liste partielle de ces mots nouveaux choisis parmi les termes les plus souvent utilisés (les lettres « A » ou « P » Indiquent le domaine dont relèvent ces mots: Audiovisuel ou Publicité)

Achat groupe (n.m.) – Package. (A)
Achat d’un ensemble de programmes à un même vendeur.

Aguiche (n.f.) – Teaser. (P)
Phase initiale d’une campagne publicitaire se présentant sous forme d’énigme destinée à inciter et à maintenir l’attention du public.

Amplificateur de sonorisation – (n.m.) Public address amplifier. (A)

Baladeur (n.m.) – « Walkman ». (A)
La terme « walkman », qui est une mar­que déposée, ne doit pas être utilisé.

Bande vidéo (n.f.) – Video-tape. (A)

Bande vidéo promotionnelle (n. f.) Video clip. (P)
Court programme réalisé à l’aide de moyens techniques perfectionnés, pour mettre en valeur un sujet donné.

Base de campagne (n.f.) – Copy platform. (P)
Ensemble de réflexions qui permet de passer à la réalisation d’une campagne publicitaire.

Cabiliste (n.m.) – Cableman. (A)

Cadreur (n.m.) – Cameramen. (A)

Carton publicitaire (n.m.) – Display. (P)

Ciné-parc (n.m.) – Drive-in cinema. (A)

Commanditaire (n.m.) Sponsor. (P)
Personne physique ou morale qui sou­tient l’organisation d’une manifestation, financièrement ou au moyen de presta­tions de services, afin d’obtenir la con­trepartie des effets publicitaires.

Commanditer (v.tr.) – To sponsor. (P)

Crayonné (n.m.) – Simple lay-out, rough lay­out, rough. (P)

Débordement (n.m.) – Overlap. (P)

Distribution artistique (n.f.) – 1. Casting; 2. Cast. (A)

Document (n.m.) – Artwork. (P)

Embargo (n.m.) . Release. (A)
Délai à respecter avant de diffuser une information ou un programme .

Evanouissement (n.m.) – Fading. (A)
Diminution momentanée de la puissance d’une onde radio-électrique au point de réception, pouvant aller jusqu’à sa disparition totale.

Fondu (n.m.) – Fade out. (A)

Gros plan (n.m) – Close-up. (A)
Journalisme électronique (n.m.) – Electronic news gathering (E.N.G.). (A

Maquette (n.f.) – Advanced lay-out. (P)

Média (n.m.) – Media.
Note: Le pluriel est médias.

Médialogie (n.f) Etude des médias

Médialogue (n.f.) Spécialiste en médialogie.

Parrainage (n.m.) : Sponsoring. (P)

Présentoir (n.m.) – Merchandiser. (P)

Prêt-à-monter (n.m.) – Kit. (A)

Publicitaire (n.m. ou adj.) – Advertising person. (P)

Publipostage (n.m.) – Mailing. (P)

Remue-méninges (n.m.) – Brain-storming. (P)

Retour en arrière (n.m.) – Flash-back. (A)

Radiocassette (n.f.) – Radiorecorder. (A)

Régisseur de distribution (n.m.) – Casting director. (A)

Sonorisation (n.f.) – Public address. (A)

Sonal (n.m.) – Jingle. (A)
Message ou élément de message diffusé sur les médias audiovisuels, généralement fondé sur un thème musical répétitif et destiné à provoquer un réflexe de reconnaissance.

Souche (n.f.) . Master. (A)
Bande magnétique originale de montage

Suramplificateur (n.m.) – Booster. (A)
Amplificateur de puissance supplémen­taire, notamment pour un véhicule automobile.

Stylicien -ne (n.m. ou f.) – Designer (P)

Stylique (n.f.) – Design. (P)

Styliste (n.m. ou 1.) – Stylist. (P)
Il peut être à la fois, ensemblier, ac­cessoiriste et costumier.

Télévision à péage (n.f) – Pay-T.V. (A)

Test aveugle (n.m.) – Blind test. (P)
Test de comparaison entre deux ou plusieurs produits anonymement présentés.

Test d’évaluation (n.m.) – Copy testing (P)
Procédure destinée à déterminer les réac­tions d’une clientèle visée face à un message ou à une série de messages publicitaires.

Test du lendemain (n.m.) – Day after recall. (P)
Mesure de l’impact d’un message publicitaire vingt-quatre heures après sa diffusion.

Travail da terrain (n.m.) – Field work. (P)