Category Archives: grammar

License agreement as literature

George Orwell’s novel Animal Farm (August, 1945) has 29,966 words.

Ray Bradbury’s novel Fahrenheit 451 (October, 1953) has 46,118 words.

Apple’s  “Apple Developer Program License Agreement” (June, 2017) has 42,993 words.

In terms of plot, setting, and character, the license agreement is no match for either of the former two works. But all three could be classed as dystopian.

Contains fish

Ikea sells furniture. Ikea has a restaurant, and it sells salmon fillets. The fillets contain fish.

Salmon fillet contains fish warning at Ikea.
Salmon fillet contains fish warning at Ikea.

Consider yourself warned.

AI and haiku

Siri does haiku. Haiku is a very ancient form of Japanese poetry, based on a pattern of seventeen syllables over three lines of five, seven and five syllables. It is also the bane of introductory literature students unfamiliar with poetry (or syllables, or creative writing), as often they are required to start writing haiku with little or no background information.

But Siri can make that quite easy:

Siri can write haiku. It can even write haiku about haiku, as the last example demonstrates.
Siri can write haiku. It can even write haiku about haiku, as the last example demonstrates.

That last haiku, in fact, is an item of envy: wish I’d thought of that.

Visual BASIC in Romanian

What do you do if you need a quick reference to Visual BASIC and the only available reference is in Romanian? Let us consider this logically:

First off, you do not wonder, “Why is there a Visual BASIC manual in Romanian sitting on my desk? I can neither read nor write Romanian.” This is obviously the wrong question, as the person putting it on the desk was probably thinking, “Oh, a Visual BASIC book. I don’t do Visual BASIC, so I’ll give it to someone who might be able to use it.”

Second, you do not think: “But I don’t program in Visual BASIC.” This is silly. If you know how to program at all, everyone thinks, “Oh, yes, that guy [“guy” is gender neutral in this case] is a programmer.” It doesn’t make any difference what the programming language might be. It could be COBOL, FORTRAN, BASIC, Snobol, Algol, Pascal, Ada, APL, PL/1, Swift, or, apparently, Romanian. Which isn’t a programming language at all.

What really happened: something broke. I didn’t create the broken thing. I don’t know Visual BASIC, but nobody who knew Visual BASIC was handy. There was a Visual BASIC book lying around, albeit in Romanian. Fun fact: Visual BASIC, and almost all other programming languages, is based on English.

In short: by simply ignoring the explanatory text and looking at several pages of code, I found the problem, and blackmailed someone else into fixing it.

Visual BASIC for Windows, written in Romanian.
Visual BASIC for Windows, written in Romanian.

I probably won’t press my luck and try this again.

Pay now. But what?

Possible interpretations for this sign:

Pay Now! At the Kiosk!
Pay Now! At the Kiosk!
  • Pay for people?
  • Pay for children?
  • Buy this sign?

While we are on the subject of this sign: do you pay at the kiosk, or do you pay at the pay station? Must you pay at the pay station kiosk? Isn’t that redundantly redundant, in a redundant sort of way?

And since when is it the job of signs (or mechanical voices) to thank you? Have you ever felt any particular thankful sincerity from a metal sign?