Freelance worker

I was talking to someone about what working "freelance" means, and I found a good definition at About.com, which lists four categories: Independent Contractors, On-Call Workers, Temporary Help Agency Workers, and Workers Provided by Contract Firms. I think the "independent contractors" definition is good for a freelance worker, and the source is reliable (the IRS):

The U.S. Internal Revenue Service defines the role of independent contractors this way: "A general rule is that you, the payer, have the right to control or direct only the result of the work done by an independent contractor, and not the means and methods of accomplishing the result."

Also, freelance workers have to pay all their taxes, unlike part-time workers, whose taxes and social security are partly paid by the employer. And part-timers have to show up at certain times and the employer controls them more.

Many people freelance, but definitely more people would love to have a decent full-time job where they don't have to worry about getting work. But a lot of people are finding out that it's hard to keep such jobs now.


Invented languages

I found an online artificial language lab with a list of invented languages and various data and commentary. There's no "about" section, so I don't know why the guy set up the site, but it's interesting and he really seems to love language!

There's also a faq page, including explanations on why artificial languages are "useful and interesting".


Why mix?

I ended up watching a show from India called Bollywood Unlimited, which is in English even though it covers the Indian film industry. They even have English subtitles when an Indian language (Hindi?) celebrity is talking to the media.

What I noticed, other than how different it is from American Hollywood shows, is that when the actors were being interviewed, they'd speak mostly in Hindi, but would occasionally throw English words in. Why do they mix languages? Why not just go for 100% Hindi? Is that common in India? I have no idea.

After a while, it was fun to listen to them speak while reading the subtitles, and try to figure out which English words they were using and how long they'd stick with them before slipping back into Hindi. I think switching between languages is technically called code-switching.

I can't find an extensive site for the show, but I did find a blog that has the same name, and it seems to have some good info (at least according to the poster's self-opinion) about what's going on there.


Ought we to use "the Aughts"?

With only a few months left of this decade, there seems to be a lack of consensus on what this decade should be called in English. The 1990s were nicely summarized as "the nineties," the 1980s as "the eighties," and so on. However, English, despite its seemingly legendary flexibility, has seemed unable to produce a decisive term for the years 2000 to 2009.

In The Age of the Aughts, Mark Peters discusses the use of "aughts" to refer to the 00s and writes:

A gold star for word-predicting should go to Visual Thesaurus Editor Ben Zimmer, who speculated on OUP Blog in 2007 that "aughts" had a good chance of winning the race, despite the fact that "aught" isn’t exactly a common word for zero. Zimmer noted that the archaic-sounding word is commonly used in the United States to describe the years 1900 to 1909, and that "mid-aughts" was already starting to pick up steam, potentially sparing us the silliness of no-naming, which Zimmer explained was "…when a radio station announces that it plays ‘hits from the ’80s, ’90s… and today!’
Despite the success of "aughts," recent tweets show some people are still paralyzed--or at least amused--with uncertainty as to how they will linguistically look back on 2000 to 2009:

"Amazing how 9 years into this decade there’s still no consensus on what to call it. Can we just go with @maddow’s ‘two-thousandsies’?"
Aug. 21, 2009 Mike McCaffrey

"So we had the 60’s, 70’s 80’s, and 90’s. But what will we call this decade? I'm gonna vote for the Zero’s!"
Aug. 19, 2009 shaythai

"Considering its focus on terror and uncertainty, I propose we call this decade ‘The Dread Naughts’"
Aug. 18, 2009 Fred Zelany

"@rands I propose we call this decade ‘The Holes."
Aug. 18, 2009 rstevens
Wikipedia writes:

Determining a name for the decade has been problematic, especially in the United States. In 1999, anticipating the upcoming awkwardness, a U.S. group calling itself "Project Naughtie" ran a viral campaign in an attempt to popularize "the Naughties" as the decade's name. The term is a portmanteau of naught, meaning "nothing" or "zero", and the names of other decades such as the eighties and nineties, with the intentional implication of naughty as being uninhibited. A limited number of the media has made some use of the term as well, including the BBC (using the common British spelling, nought). The Naughties version was also broadcast regularly in morning news bulletins on UK radio station Atlantic 252 between the end of 1998 and Christmas 1999. An Australian website used the name from 1998. The Noughties is also used in the UK Both spellings have gained some currency among the legitimate press in the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Australia, but there still remains no consensus on what term to use.
In some other languages, such as French, this would appear to be less of a problem. The "sixties," for instance, are known as "les années 60" (the '60 years). Analogously, this decade is "les années 2000." In Spanish, as well, the "sixties" are "los años 60" (the '60 years), and this decade is "los años 2000."

Perhaps, in true dramatic fashion, a "silver bullet" will arrive this December 31, with the suggestion of a perfect term that pleases everyone. As this is unlikely to happen, we will probably be left with a multitude of options, such as those that Peters proposes:

Other names suggested over the years have included the "diddly-squats," "the double naughts," "the double nuts," "the double ohs," "the double zeroes," "the goose eggs," "the naughties," "the naughts," "the nillies," "the nots," "the oh-ohs," "the pre-teens," "the uh-ohs," "the unies," "the zeds," "the zero zeros," and "the zilches." "The aughts" feels like an antique by comparison, a verbal relic like "thou" or "fishmonger". But some antiques still get the job done.
(Posted by language fan and friend Silas McCracken.)


The "its" is wrong

woodlands its sign

Cristina said the " its' " on this sign is "driving me crazy every day on my way to work", and when I saw the picture (which isn't completely clear because she took it with her cell phone), I just had to post it here.

Dear historical sign people: if it's possessive, it's supposed to be ITS (ie, no apostrophe)!


They're probably planning for a hit

There's a lot of news about the murder of the Yale student, and there's so much drama and frequent updates about it, I'm guessing that the publishing folks in New York and the TV/movie folks in Los Angeles are already writing or at least planning a story about it. They can probably see the potential of such a story, and would be dumb to not take advantage of it.

So I wonder how many professional story tellers are writing their treatment right now. How many studio execs or producers are doing a basic outline, just in case this murder case is resolved? And I'm sure someone will be able to write a book quickly just by using news reports to do the outline.

When some type of TV drama or book comes out, I'll just say I told you so.


English that's probably been translated from Japanese or that's just odd

I ended up at the website of Zoom, a Japanese company that makes sound gear. The Japanese version of the site is interesting, of course, but what's even more interesting is the English version.

The writing is a little stilted. It's not just wordy, but seems rigid, so I've concluded that it's probably been translated from Japanese. At least some of the site has probably been translated, because going from Japanese to English is VERY hard and sometimes people get so caught up in translating, they forget to check if the English sounds natural, not Japanese-Englishy (yes, that "y" at the end was intentional).

On one part of the Zoom site, they have this odd sentence that I had to read twice because I wasn't sure why they used the word "some" in front of "engineers":

The company was so named by a group of founding some engineers who chose "Zoom" for the simple reason that it would stand out in an alphabetical listing by starting with the letter "Z."

Another odd thing I noticed is that one of the links on the right and the title of the page say "The Zoom History". Usually an English site would say "Zoom's History" or "The History of Zoom" ie, there would be no "the" at the beginning. The difference between "the" and "a", and the correct use of articles, are hard for non-native speakers to figure out, which is another sign that the site wasn't at least checked by a native speaker.

There are also either typos, as in "Nearly all of Zoom products..." (there has to be a possessive there) or lack of plurals. On the FAQ page, they say "Common Question"--but there is more than one! So obviously it should be "questions". And what about the top navigation area? One of the buttons says "Product", as in "We only offer one product". English sites would probably never keep it singular unless they were literally offering just ONE product.

There are plenty of native English speakers in Japan who know how to write English well, and Japanese companies usually have the money to hire good English copywriters and editors (as opposed to companies in poorer countries that just plop a non-native English speaker in front of a computer and tell them to translate or write the English themselves because it's a lot cheaper than hiring a foreigner who would definitely do it a lot better). It's just too bad that they don't make sure their English looks good.

But at least they had the incredible talent to create both an English and Japanese site--that's hard to build!


Save the date!

I've mentioned in other posts and in my profile that I put an anthology together with contributions from bloggers and good writers that I know in Chicago and elsewhere. Well I've organized a reading next month. Here's the info:

When: Friday, October 23 at 7:00 PM
Where: Quimby's Bookstore, 1854 W. North Avenue in Chicago
Cost: FREE

So far, four of the contributors are going to read: John Banas, Sharyn Elman, Hugh Iglash, and Peter Zelchenko. If you want to hear audio of them, listen here. A full preview of the book is below.

Down the Block


I just ate some Indonesian bread

A friend came over whose parents are visiting from Indonesia, and they gave him some Indonesian bread, which he graciously shared with me. It was very good, though had zero fiber, I'm sure, and was tasty enough to be considered dessert, because it was totally soft and a little sweet. It actually tasted like challah, which is so good, I have to refrain from getting a loaf lest I eat it for every meal until it's gone.

When I think of Indonesia, I don't think "bread", and I've even been there and bread is not what I saw all around. I remember eating a lot of things that aren't common in the West, and it never occurred to me to even look for bread.

The bread I ate was from Saint Anna bakery, and I even found a description of it, though it's in Bahasa Indonesia, which looks cool but I can't understand.


A Boy Named Anne, A Girl Named Laurence

On the sitcom "Friends," a joke was made about Louisa May Alcott's 19th-century novel Little Women in which there is romantic tension between the characters Jo and Laurie, as the genders of the characters may not be readily apparent to many modern US readers. Indeed, Jo (which sounds like the frequently male name "Joe") is a female, while Laurie is a male. In Alcott's time, and at least into the 20th century in some parts of the English-speaking world, Laurie was a not uncommon nickname for "Laurence," although in the modern US, "Laurie" (akin to "Laura") is used almost exclusively as a female name. To further complicate things, while English speakers will likely identify "Laurence" as a male name, in French, "Laurence" is often used as a girl's name, the feminine form of the male name "Laurent."

English speakers are often used to the gender ambiguity of unisex names such as "Pat," "Alex," "Chris," "Robin" (although in some English-speaking countries the female version is commonly spelled "Robyn"), and "Jamie," as well as names like "Kelly" and even "Marion" (macho US movie star John Wayne's real name was Marion Mitchell Morrison). And over time, some predominantly male names, such as "Taylor," "Adrian," and "Shawn," are used with increasing frequency for baby girls, although, curiously, the reverse happens only rarely.

Because of the infrequency, for whatever reason, of women's names being used for men, it may be confusing or startling to see the use of men's names for women even in a cross-cultural context. "Dominique," used occasionally in English as a female name, may be a man's name or a woman's name in French. The name "Jean," a woman's name in English, is used, although pronounced differently, as a man's name in French (the French form of John). Similarly, "Joan," also used as a woman's name in English, is used, although again pronounced differently, as a man's name in Catalan (the Catalan form of John). "Nicola" and "Andrea," identified primarily as women's names in English, are often used as male names in Italian. Furthermore, "Anne," used as a female name in English, is a man's name in Frisian (a language, closely related to English, spoken in the Netherlands), primarily a woman's name in English, is often used as a male name. And "Marie" or "Maria" have sometimes been given to baby boys as a middle name in parts of Europe, generally traditionally Catholic regions.

This all brings to mind the classic Johnny Cash song A Boy Named Sue. Is it really so far-fetched?

(Posted by language fan and friend Silas McCracken.)


Good band I saw last night

I went to the Gapers Block fifth anniversary party last night, and enjoyed the ethereal music of Panda Riot, which is even better live than what you can hear here.

I ended up meeting the lead singer after their set, and she was nice and even seemed sort of shy. I'd say she's more concerned with the quality of their music than dominating the stage or trying to manipulate the crowd to adore them.

You can hear more of their music at their site.

Click the orange "play" word below to hear the track.


Perplexing sentence

I was reading an article about working artists, and I saw this perplexing sentence about one of the artists who was lecturing about how to make a living doing art:

She has a glow about her, like someone who has seen enlightenment but turned away because she has a successful art career.

If she saw enlightenment but turned away, then why does she have a glow? There are other questions I have, but really, this is the type of sentence that is like art or a good novel: we can interpret different ways, because it's quite puzzling.


Best literal video (with subtitles of course)

Legions of people have seen this video, but I just want to share it here because I've seen a lot of literal videos, and this one is the best. I was laughing so hard, I was almost crying. There are also other good ones at his YouTube channel (though Dustfilms is the true inventor of literal videos).