Jul 23, 2010

Re-versioning 'revert'

I had previously written about my aversion for the reversion i.e. the use of 'revert' in e-mails to mean 'reply'. But the inevitable march of the very forces that make language fluid and nimble have had their first major victory in this matter. Linguist Ben Zimmer (he replaced William Safire in the New York Times' popular 'On Language' column) wrote on the topic, noting that this sense of the word has finally made it to a dictionary.

The 8th edition of the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary notes the (still obnoxious) usage, marking it as having originated in Indian-English. We are seeing, at first-hand, an example of the mutation of language, and some part of me wants to celebrate that. So I suppose it is time to put the pitchforks down, but that doesn't mean a change in my conservative attitude. The likelihood of me embracing this word-meaning combination is the same as that of a Khap panchayat sending a gift certificate and greeting card to the latest set of Jat elopers.

Aren't you glad that the madmen of Indian villages didn't spent as much time protecting language?

Jul 4, 2010


Neil Gaiman wrote Coraline for his little daughter Holly who liked scary stories about little girls getting mixed up with witches. The book can even give a mild shiver or two - well, let me confess here - and make them check the back of their closets and their eyes. Just once. Just to make sure. Especially when things are too good to be true.

Everyone loves a good scare from time to time, especially when conjuring up the scarescape in our own heads. Gaiman's wonderfully paced writing and characteristic fancies gives us all the help we need. The story is set in England where, as everyone knows, ghosts play cricket in the autumn dusk and witches go shopping at the neighbourhood Castle Tesco. Besides being doughty in the best traditions of 'oh well, let's not make a fuss now and set about battling the dragon', Coraline, the young heroine of the tale, has an active curiosity and imagination that literally opens doors for her. Among the neighbours, the humans are batty and the animals are wise. The others are just plain sinister.

I enjoyed this book thoroughly. If you dismiss this book merely as children's fiction, think again. Like some great writing, this works for everyone. And if you are a parent who thinks they can fob off their children with distractions so that they'll let you work, you must read this book before something happens. To you.

Coraline was made into a well-received stop motion animation film in 2009 by Henry Selick. There are a few changes to the characters and settings (sadly, perhaps keeping the box office in mind, the story moves to the USA). But the movie is lovingly made, and the translation from word to image is magical. The animation is seamless and it's hard to pick out the fact that the movie is a stop-motion one.

And after you've seen the film, go back to the opening credits.

image courtesy: http://vindicated13.files.wordpress.com/2009/08/coraline.jpg

Jul 1, 2010

The Accidental Click

You're busy. Or you've been on vacation. You're depressed. You are detoxing from information overload.

Result? The little unread monsters pile up. One by one, they show up at your door - the door you left open for them (well, you did feed them that invitation in big, bold 'blog' letters). And they wait in your living room (they are polite) for you to have a look at them.

They are like the Squeeze Toy Aliens from Toy Story - they are irritating in their eternal gratitude that you showed some tiny long-forgotten interest in them. Even before they were created.

When you finally have the strength to look at your RSS feed reader, you realise the slow poison that's accumulated in there. You can't read the group with 100+ unread posts, so you resolutely look at the ones with just 1 new post. Soon, the law of exponential unreadness kicks in, multiplying like rabbits descended from Gandhaari. It's outta control already.

You tip-toe around the reader, trying not to set off a minefield of will-read-ness. Here a click, there a click, everywhere a click-click.

And one day, when you are not paying attention it happens. It's like visiting the Tomatina festival. You click on a folder by mistake. Blast! All the feeds open. But one ohnosecond later, it's the best thing that happened to you. You know you can't read all of these posts, and there was probably nothing useful in them anyway.

As you sip sour wine from these grapes, you close the browser tab.

Images courtesy: Squeeze Toy Aliens, Tomatina