The Long View 2006-07-10: Rolling Fast; Dumb Reform; Smart Reform

This fasting protest seems pretty tame now.

Rolling Fast; Dumb Reform; Smart Reform


Mark Steyn is a cruel man, as we see from his account of the last word in celebrity war protesting:

''Penn, Sarandon, novelist Alice Walker and actor Danny Glover will join a 'rolling' fast, a relay in which 2,700 activists pledge to refuse food for at least 24 hours, and then hand over to a comrade.''

...Personally, if celebrities have to ''put their bodies on the line for peace,'' I'd much rather see them bulk up. How about if Cameron Diaz and Gwyneth Paltrow promise to put on 20 pounds for every month Bush refuses to end his illegal war? ...even al-Qaida couldn't have come up with as withering a parody of the Great Satan's decadence as a celebrity pseudo-fast.

I think perhaps "relay fast" would be a better term than "rolling fast." The latter sounds like what a barrel does on a steep hill.

* * *

Spelling Reform is cruel too, at least to its proponents, such as myself. Only those persons familiar with my sensitive and nonconfrontational nature can imagine the hurt and spiritual maim I have suffered since Darlene Superville's AP story of July 5 made the matter topical. With some exceptions, the typical blogosphere reaction has been like this:

Okay, I came across this article this morning, and felt a need to share it with you. I find it utterly ridiculous and sad that people are actually arguing over this, and demanding for simpler spelling. I mean why is this such a huge issue, when we are facing so many more bigger problems than how to dumb ourselves down a bit more by being lazy with our grammar?

There is a genuine mystery here. Information system are modified all the time. A familiar example would be an upgrade to a computer program that made the program less confusing to use and less likely to crash. A more esoteric one, though perhaps more like what a spelling reform in English intends, is the routine codification areas of Common Law. (The Uniform Commercial Code did not abolish the Common Law of contacts, for instance, but the Code did make that law more coherent and easy to cite.) No step like this would ever be characterized as dumbing the system down. Apparently it's an Anglophone cultural insistence: any change in orthography is regarded as negligence, even when it's deliberate and demonstrably an improvement.

When you hear commentators referring to "spelling upgrade" rather than "reform," then you will know the insistence has been overcome.

What would a world with upgradable spelling be like?. It would be very much like this:

A few months ago, we released a brand-new French spell-checker for Office 2003 users (it was integrated into Service Pack 2 in September 2005). One of the main features of this new tool was that it now takes into account the French spelling reform, which is recommended by official bodies such as the Académie Française, the Conseil supérieur de la langue française, etc. I have discussed the various changes as well as the quality label we received for this tool on our other blog, so I won’t do it again here.

The official texts make it clear that both the traditional (‘old’) spelling and the ‘new’ spelling are valid. The default setting therefore accepts both forms. However, we had provided a separate dialog box to enable users to select the flavor they would like to use in the French texts if they wanted to change this default configuration.

I promise not to turn this into a spelling blog, but someone has to make these points.

Copyright © 2006 by John J. Reilly

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