Just to make a point about the boundless possibilities of technology, I thought I would publish a Language Log post from a train. I am writing while traveling south by rail from Edinburgh to York. However, I have to admit that the boundless possibilities of technology are being resisted every step of the way by the forces of darkness and entropy. An hour out of Edinburgh we slowed to a crawl because of farm animals on the line. A modern express train can do nothing in the face of an imperturbable heifer, apparently. One minute it was rattle-a-dat, rattle-a-dat, at about ninety miles an hour, and the next minute we were stationary at a herd of cattle like a taxi in rural India. And the other thing is that through some strange interaction of default configurations with the National Express East Coast free wi-fi software, when train passengers call for the Google front page they get the one in Swedish. I am on a train in England looking at Google Sverige, which has buttons labeled Google-sökning and Jag har tur. As a qualified linguist, it shouldn't faze me to use Swedish for once (heck, I once executed an ATM transaction in Hmoob). But I am bit intrigued. I wonder what unintended consequence of what variable setting in which file was responsible for this whole train acting as if it were stuck behind a Swedish cow in Swedish cyberspace.
[People have of course been emailing me to observe that quite probably National Express East Coast accepted a bid from a Swedish ISP to run its wi-fi network, so the signals into Google are showing the IP address of a Swedish server. I agree, that is very probably the reason. In fact Martin Hardcastle says: "I noticed this on a similar train a couple of days ago. Seems that National Express is using a Swedish satellite broadband provider (http://www.ses-sirius.com/english/) to connect its trains to the
internet. Your internet traffic really does arrive at Google via Sweden, with a Swedish IP address, so Google is only doing its job." It still seems to me that someone should have noticed this and put in a fix. On the off chance that this is noticed by someone working for Google Sweden, or National Express, or the ISP in question, I will comments below. But please don't tell me your train was also stopped behind a cow for a while near Scunthorpe. I know, it happens to all of us.]