Archive for Nerdview

Shoots flaming balls with reports

From Bill Benzon:

"Flaming balls" and "reports" may very well be the standard technical terminology for the visual and auditory design features of roman candles. None of the rest of the visible text shows signs of translation problems. But still…

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Post Office nerdview (capped)

Postal orders are a way for people in Britain to send money by post without having a checking account, but there is a fee, dependent on the face value of the order. For a postal order with a face value of more than £100 the fee is shown on the Post Office web page as "Capped at £12.50", which puzzled Matt Keefe. He wrote to me to ask if it was an instance of nerdview. Absolutely; that's exactly what it is.

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FORM TWO LANES

Driving back from the airport last night in unusually heavy traffic I came to a sign that said "FORM TWO LANES".

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Start by logging on to this computer

Nerdview enthusiasts: My colleague Mits Ota pointed out to me today that the helpful instructions in a recording studio at the University of Edinburgh, which are presented as the wallpaper screen background on the Macintosh computer through which you control the recording equipment, state that the first thing you have to do to get started is to log on to the Mac, for which you will need to know that the login name to use is 'studio' and the password is also 'studio'. You see why Mits brought the example to my attention?

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Non- … but not … or … except …

From Lane Greene:

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The mysterious Interchange Level

Arriving at the London Underground subway station deep below King's Cross railway station, the main London terminal for trains to Edinburgh using the East Coast main line. I'm lugging a heavy wheeled bag, and there are flights of ordinary stairs as well as escalators, so I take the passenger elevator upward. Several of us crowd into it with our suitcases. The doors automatically close, and the elevator starts automatically without any button-pressing, having only one direction in which it can travel. As the faint sensation of upward movement ceases, an electronically generated voice intones: "Interchange Level. Doors opening. We all stare at each other, mystified, seeking reassurance in each other's eyes, and look out as the doors open to see if there are any clues out there. What the hell is the "interchange level"?

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Waste bin misnegation

I saw a sticker on the lid of a pedal-operated hospital waste bin that said this:


THIS SACK HOLDER IS SPECIFICALLY DESIGNED TO BE FOOT OPERATED ONLY. THE LID MUST NOT BE HAND OPERATED AND PUSHED PAST THE POINT WHERE IT WILL NOT AUTOMATICALLY RETURN TO THE CLOSED POSITION.

Everyone who uses the bin sees this notice; maybe some even read it and try to respect it; but perhaps only Language Log readers will notice that it contains a misnegation — another sign that the number of negations within a sentence that our poor monkey brains can successfully handle averages out at little more than 1.

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Easy-to-use frustration

"Important – Please contact us to provide more information."

That's what the letter from Independence Blue Cross said. Dated 7/28/2015, it arrived 8/4/2015, and informed me that I need to "call or respond online within seven business days to ensure that your future claims and those of your family members can be processed in a timely manner." So today is the deadline.

What do I need to contact them about? "We are required to determine if you or your family members have other health insurance coverage to process your claims."

OK, fair enough. And they inform me that "You can choose the most convenient way to provide this information to us". The first option is to "Simply dial 1-866-507-6575 and follow the prompts on our easy-use interactive voice response system"; the second option is "to visit our member website at www.ibxpress.com".

But it turns out that there are a couple of problems. The first problem is that both methods fail at the first step. And the second problem is that there's apparently no other way to contact them to "provide more information … to ensure that your future claims and those of your family members can be processed in a timely manner".

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Eggcorn of the month

James Fallows discusses his experience as a juror — "Build Your Vocabulary, 'Ass Baton' Edition", The Atlantic 5/2/2015:

Through the examination and cross-exams in this case, attorneys for both sides were careful to make sure that even very familiar terms were spelled out to remove the last bit of ambiguity. […]

There was one exception, the term I kept hearing as "ass baton." At one crucial point in this case, a white (as it happened, and young and ostentatiously fit) police officer was chasing a black (as it happened, and older and heavier) suspect down a dark alley, on foot. The policeman soon tackled the defendant from behind. What happened next?

"I struck him with the ass baton, and then I secured his hands with flexi-cuffs, and …" "And was the suspect injured by the ass baton?" "He did not appear to be, but since he would not say anything to us, as a routine precaution after use of the ass baton we called an ambulance…"

I learned afterwards that the other 11 members of the jury were all thinking roughly what I was: "Ass baton? Am I the only person who has never heard of this? I guess I can understand what it could mean, in context. You've got your hand cuffs, and your leg restraints. But really, an ass baton?" A jury isn't allowed to ask questions in court. 

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mark.liberman.121 is not me

Earlier today, someone set up a Facebook account https://www.facebook.com/mark.liberman.121, with a version of my FB profile picture, and began communicating with people as if they were me. My actual FB page is https://www.facebook.com/mark.liberman, which I don't use much except to look at things that people tell me about.

This is apparently a phishing enterprise. The impostor asks people for their phone number and email address and postal address — at least one person gave them this much information — and eventually gets around to money.

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Biomedical nerdview

My new hobby, as Randall Munroe sometimes says, is asking biomedical researchers what "sensitivity" and "specificity" mean. The modal response is "Um, yes, I always have to look those up".

But recently, preparing a homework assignment about the evaluation of binary classifiers, I had a flash of insight. My new insight answers one of the questions I've always had about these terms: Why do biomedical researchers focus on the (apparently misleading) concepts that "sensitivity" and "specificity" denote?  (My other question remains unanswered: Why did they pick those singularly un-mnemonic names? As far as I can see, they might as well have called them  "delicacy" and "capacity", or "intensity" and "curiosity", or "Jupiter" and "Saturn".)

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Fan-fold ticket stock nerdview

We have not discussed any examples of nerdview on Language Log for a while. But Bob Ladd told me of one the other day. He was at the Edinburgh Airport dropping someone off, and pulled up next to the ticket dispensing machine for the short-stay car park. He pushed the button, but no ticket appeared. Instead, the display screen of the machine showed a message: "OUT OF FAN-FOLD TICKETS".

Not having encountered the term "fan-fold" (I guess he never owned a tractor-feed printer in the 1980s), he was momentarily flummoxed. What the hell was a fan-fold ticket, and what was he supposed to do, given that there apparently weren't any, and he had to take one to make the white bar lift up so he could go in?

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Scholar-hegemons in China

In "Nerd, geek, PK: Creeping Romanization (and Englishization), part 2" and other Language Log posts, we have delved into the terminology for nerddom.  In the course of our discussions, we seem to have arrived at a consensus that it's difficult to find a Chinese term that conveys well the notion and nuances of the English word "nerd".

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