Monday, 13 August 2007

Errol's - and exception's - included in course.

Firstly, apologies, this is not a spelling/nazi grammar/nazi attack, merely an observation. I use the term "nazi" not to offend any fascist regimes, but only in the sense that 'netnerds have used it for over a decade now, to label anyone that is a pedant, a stickler for detail, someone who actively pulls down another's work and points out all the flaws. Because, somewhere in this paragraph, is the key to what I'm seeing here.

An article, you've probably read it by now, bewailing the fact that net coding standards are slipping, the "old schoole" (read "HTML strict nazis" but I use the term "nazi" not to offend any fascist regimes, but only in the sense that 'netnerds have used it for over a decade now, to label anyone that is a pedant, a stickler for detail, someone who actively pulls down another's work and points out all the flaws) coders are way to busy to mentor the new ones, and Oh My Gawd the new ones are so sloppy with their work! and so forth.

In that spirit, I skimmed the article for grammar and spelling. After all, one of the primary purposes of Web x.0 (whatever version we are up to while I've been sleeping) is to communicate and in order to do that we in the Western world generally use "English 101" as the baseline. It too has its standards and constructs, and if one is to effectively communicate using English 101, we the Olde Schoole who grew up in a time when English still deserved capitalisation need to teach these young whippersnappers a bit of a bloody old lesson, I say!

Herewith the ten most obvious errors that leapt off the screen at me as I read:
  1. seen it to
    seen it too - In this paragraph the meaning was as in "he has seen it also," not in the sense that "he has seen it to do something."
  2. are loosing out
    are losing out or are loseing out - How many times one sees this error defies belief - I "lose" count of the number of times "loose" cannons do this.
  3. took it’s time to
    took its time to - The next most common confusion: "Apostrophatropy," a condition where one's knowledge of where to place the apostrophe atropies to the point that we get just put them everywhere, and leave them out everywhere, at the same time. Unfortunately these two conditions never seem to agree with the rules of English 101...
  4. people . . . where young
    people . . . were young - This is just confusing two words again, like "loose" and "lose."
  5. and it’s needs
    and its needs - More Apostrophatropy. Enough said.
  6. leaders, that had aspired them
    leaders, that had inspired them - Unless their leaders were wielding an Oxy-Viva at the time, it was inspiration, not aspiration, that the writer was trying to convey here.
  7. where not forefilling
    were not fulfilling - Two for the price of one, and in a three word sentence fragment, even!
  8. they tool theire
    they took their - Spelling errors known as "typos") are common, these are both caused by keyboard layout - the spell check key is obviously on another keyboard just out of reach...
  9. dream the turned it
    dream, then turned it - Two errors here, for correct syntax this needs a comma, and a dropped letter which the spell checker would have picked up.
  10. happen on mass
    happen en masse - One of those "intruding ethnic groups" which forever changed English 101, the French, gave us several words and phrases which were adopted into common useage but which are still spelled the French way. I'm sure the author of that phrase did not mean "happen on top of a congregation of people celebrating a religious custom."

I'm not the person that should speak on this - I rarely use spell check, use unusual and ungrammatical constructs to highlight my meaning or distract the reader away from my meaning as dictated by whatever I'm writing about - but I know my English 101. Am I so different from the people that speak "HTML 4.0 Strict" or "Web 2.0?"

We of the old English 101 guard see new words in the dictionary every year, and then when we talk to people or correspond with them, we discover that what's being spoken in the street is entirely different to the sacred Merriam-Webster, and apostrophatrophy is in full swing whether (or wether or weather) we cry about it or not. The common argot is what people are using to communicate, and we the elite Olde Schoole can just stick that in our Macquarie and file it.

Dictionaries are what publishers use to ensure that their documents are readable by the public. Language is what people use when they discuss that document, when they write in their diary, when they write a best seller, and when they talk to one another. The Olde Schoole at the places that publish dictionaries spend much of their time tracking down new word useages, deciding if they are mainstream enough for inclusion yet, and then either include them or exclude them.

In the same way, instead of railing about tables and iframes and 1pixel margin errors, what the W3C and other bodies need to be doing is to get into browser coding. Not to make theor own browsers, but to see how the lingua franca is changing, what tags are being used despite not being in The Sacred Code, what coding balls-ups the hoi polloi make, and analysing new web documents to see what an author (note how I said that - it's important - it has gone from being a "web programmer" to being a "web author") is trying to achieve versus what it actually looks like in various browsers.

In other words: stop picking on whether the writer is using Megaron or Helvetica - and doing it all wrong in your opinion - and see that they are filling a space with words and they just want those words to fit next to that pretty picture without overflowing.

There is no "standard." There will never be (despite everyone's most fervent wishes) a "standard." Everyone has a different idea of how to achieve their ends, everyone pronounces and spells "it's not certain whether the Cows will lose" with their own particular and idiosyncratic combination of apostrophes and spelling errors and syntax errors. What the different web steering bodies need to be doing is looking at how to adapt to that and how to make Internet content fit with useage.

A big clue: The web we know and love is still arguing about how to deal with text, and the users out there are filling YouTube to overflowing with videos... Start rethinking the paradigm right now, or become irrelevant in a few years,,,,

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