English V3.31

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We're a bit behind the curve on this one — Verity Stob, "Verity Stob and the super subjunction", The Register, 6/1/2011:

Just downloaded the beta version of English V3.31, and I have to say I am very excited about it. This is definitely going to be a feather in the cap of Anglophones everywhere, and way better than the notorious V2.99 release of French (or the 'deux point neufty-neuf' as it has become known). There's a ton of new features to talk about, so let me dive in right away with some toothsome details.

Ms. Stob leads with "the parameterised cliché",

Known as the 'snowclone' in some commercial implementations, this feature is an old friend to any journalists among you. Initially devised as an effortless method of generating magazine headlines and blog article titles, it has now been generally adopted as a way of churning out a thixotropic literary substance that partially-deaf listeners may mishear as 'wit'..

She continues with the "emphatic period", another innovation featured here some years ago:

Now, top punctuation boffins have come up with a solution that reintroduces the power of exclamation but has a built-in mechanism that defeats attempts at repeated-stop hyperbole. Here is the emphatic period in action:

It. Was. Julie.

The other featured features are not so clearly LL associated, but my overall favorite is this one:

[A]n alternative spelling proposal, which aimed to differentiate better between so-called 'British' English and its assorted inferior knock-offs, has been resoundingly rejected to the disappointment of many. The idea, backed by the Tourist Board among others, was to boost the general kookynicity  of British spellings in general and word endings in particular. In short, to take the ball introduced by such pairings as analogue/analog, colour/color and programme/program and run it out of the gridiron and over the try line.

For example, the noun 'dog' was to be respelled 'dogue', giving it a 66% boost in angliosity, and the days of the weeke were to be reworked with an  'arts and crafts' feel with carefully-designed, synthetically  yet sympathetically retro-blended syllables: Thursnobdaye.


  1. Ralph Hickok said,

    June 17, 2011 @ 1:27 pm

    I have to wonder about the use of "feather in the cap." To me, it should mean kudos to whoever designed and implemented English V3.31, not its users.

  2. Yuval said,

    June 17, 2011 @ 1:55 pm

    Hmm. I thought analogue/analog is a semantic difference – the former being a noun (synonymous with "similar notion") and the latter being an adjective (contrasted with "digital")

  3. GeorgeW said,

    June 17, 2011 @ 2:51 pm

    @Yuval: So does MWCD.

  4. Aaron Toivo said,

    June 17, 2011 @ 2:55 pm

    Yuval, that's correct as far as I know and matches with everything in my experience and with dictionary.com as well, for whatever that's worth, with the exception that it allows "analog" as an alternative spelling for the noun. But we're still talking about a difference of syntactic category ("part of speech") much more than a difference of semantics, as both words' meanings invoke the same notion of analogy.

  5. cameron said,

    June 17, 2011 @ 3:22 pm

    I like the geeky "curried snowclone" concept. That's an excellent metaphor for describing how snowclones can be extended, or un-curried.

  6. MattF said,

    June 17, 2011 @ 3:43 pm

    For those who left their non-Newtonian glosses at home, a 'thixotropic' fluid's viscosity decreases when it is stressed– ketchup is the canonical example (whacking the ketchup bottle sends a stress wave through the fluid, decreasing its viscosity). Other examples are yogurt and paint.

    The opposite of thixotropic is 'dilantant'– the kitchen laboratory example is cornstarch in water, which thickens when you stir it.

  7. Andrew (not the same one) said,

    June 17, 2011 @ 3:55 pm

    I am fairly sure that analog/analogue began simply as different spellings. When I was young people (in Britain) did indeed write about analogue computers, etc. It seems that 'analog' has now become dedicated to the technical sense, in the same way that 'program' is sometimes reserved for the computing sense while 'programme' is used in other contexts.

  8. Eric P Smith said,

    June 17, 2011 @ 4:55 pm

    @ Andrew (not the…)

    Yes, I agree.

  9. CIngram said,

    June 17, 2011 @ 5:06 pm


    I knew someone would get that one wrong. A thixotropic fluid is one whose viscosity varies with time, not just with stress.

  10. Ken Brown said,

    June 17, 2011 @ 6:05 pm

    Ketchup? Toothpaste!

  11. marie-lucie said,

    June 17, 2011 @ 6:58 pm

    Please tell me that "thixotropic", which refers to some criterion involving viscosity, is not from "thick-so-tropic" and instead has a Greek etymology.

  12. Ed W said,

    June 17, 2011 @ 7:03 pm

    Reminds me of another set of proposals for upgrading English (by patenting it!):


  13. Gary said,

    June 17, 2011 @ 7:23 pm

    thixo- is probably derived, as a slightly bastardized form, from thixis, the verbal noun from thingano "to touch". So I guess the person who coined the word was looking for a way to make a concept out of "changed by being touched".

  14. Rod Johnson said,

    June 17, 2011 @ 8:14 pm

    Lovely. I too laughed out loud (though not, you know, out loud) at the curried snowclone idea. I expect to see a lot more lambdas used to describe these from now on.

  15. Rod Johnson said,

    June 17, 2011 @ 8:16 pm

    …and thinking about it, the arity element is useful. So when someone utters some fixed phrase, like "you know, for kids," I can mark it down as a 0-ary snowclone.

  16. jmmcd said,

    June 17, 2011 @ 9:28 pm

    > It. Was. Julie.

    sounds completely different from

    > It was Julie!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Also. Far be it from me etc, but does Language Log really claim that the emphatic period is "clearly LL associated"? If so, these English v3.31 people might be infringing on your copyright.

  17. Nick Lamb said,

    June 18, 2011 @ 5:06 am

    jmmcd, "associated" here is a much broader word than say "caused".

    A British weather forecaster Michael Fish is associated with a powerful storm which hit the UK in the 1980s. However Fish did not cause the storm, nor predict it, in fact the opposite, Fish happened to make an off-the-cuff remark that there wouldn't be a hurricane, and indeed there was not a hurricane, merely an extremely dangerous storm which killed several people.

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  20. jmmcd said,

    June 18, 2011 @ 10:22 pm

    @Nick Lamb

    Sure, the unfortunate Mr Fish will always be associated with that almost-hurricane. If you mention his name, people will think of that incident. That's an association.

    If you mention LL, do people think of the emphatic period? Or vice versa? Speaking as a fan of both, I don't.

  21. Dan T. said,

    June 18, 2011 @ 10:29 pm

    If the latest version of English is 3.31, what were the numbers of earlier versions? A few were mentioned in the article, in the 2.0 and 3.0 ranges, but was Old English 1.0 or still back in the "beta" 0.x range? What about Middle English and Early Modern English?

  22. Zythophile said,

    June 19, 2011 @ 11:11 am

    Very droll, and I'd love to know how many readers of The Register caught the Chaucer joke, but "… hoards of peevish academics …"? Why would anyone hoard academics, peevish or otherwise? It's not like there is a shortage …

  23. Stuart said,

    June 19, 2011 @ 5:12 pm

    @Zythophile, both the Chaucer gag and the "hoards" received mention in comments on the Stob article.

  24. John Cowan said,

    June 20, 2011 @ 10:37 pm

    Ralph Hickok: I think the idea is that it will be a feather in the cap of anglophones to have in their hands such a superior (excuse me, "superiour") implementation. (If "superiour" was good enough for Sam: Johnson, it should be good enough for Verity Stob.)

  25. Trix said,

    June 24, 2011 @ 10:01 am

    Well, this regular reader of The Register, and Ms Stob's fine satires, most certainly did catch the Chaucer joke. As did others, as Stuart notes, in the comments.

    Some of us techies can linguisize as well. :-)

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