Oxford English Dictionary Adds New Entries: Chuddies, Jibbons and Fantoosh

22 March 2019

From The Guardian:

English speakers from around the world have flocked to help the Oxford English Dictionary expand its coverage of regional vocabulary, with a new update including suggestions such as jibbons, chuddies and sitooterie.

The dictionary launched its Words Where You Are appeal to the public last year to mark the 90th anniversary of the completion of its first edition. The regional vocabulary suggestions which have poured in from readers ever since span the globe, from the Welsh English term for spring onions, “jibbons”, to the name for the regional dialect heard in New Orleans, “Yat”, which is derived from the greeting: “Where y’at?”

The public appeal also yielded a host of Scots terms, from “bidie-in”, which the OED defines as “a person who lives with his or her partner in a non-marital relationship”, and which it says was first recorded in 1916, to “bigsie”. Meaning “having an exaggerated sense of one’s own importance”, bigsie’s first recorded use was in 1881, when the Aberdeen Weekly Journal told the story of a tailor who was known locally as a “gey bigsie kin’ o’ bodie”. The Scottish word “fantoosh” has a similar meaning – dating from the 1920s, it is used to describe anything showy or flashy, often disparagingly. The OED points to a 1936 article in Scots Magazine: “Ony sensible body wad be only too pleased if I washed their windows for naething, but jist because ye think yersel’ fantoosh, I’m no’ guid enough.”

The word “sitooterie” is another Scottish term to make the cut in the OED’s latest update, with editors Jane Johnson and Kate Wild saying that there is “something just generally pleasing about the word”. Meaning “a place in which to sit out”, it dates to at least the 1920s.

A host of Scottish insults were also submitted by members of the public, from “bam”, defined as a foolish, annoying, or obnoxious person, as in the pronunciation from Aberdeen: “Awa ye ham, Yer mither’s a bam”, to “geggie”. Meaning mouth, geggie is frequently used in “shut your geggie”, said the OED, which found the earliest evidence of its use in William Miller’s 1985 short story Andy’s Trial: “‘Good fur you, wee Andy!’ shouted his grandmother. The judge looked over his specs. ‘Mah dear wumman,’ he said patiently, ‘will ye kindly shut yer geggie?’”

Link to the rest at The Guardian

PG admits to loving new words and phrases, especially when they’re old.

Group Registration for Unpublished Works

22 March 2019

From The Copyright Alliance:

Last week, the U.S. Copyright Office launched a new group registration option for unpublished works. Many creators previously used the “unpublished collection” option to register these unpublished works. If you are one of those creators, pay close attention because this new group registration option has replaced the unpublished collection registration option.

. . . .

On March 15, the U.S. Copyright Office introduced the new group registration, allowing a copyright owner to register up to 10 unpublished works in one application, for a single fee. In the case of sound recordings, the Office will allow up to 10 sound recordings to be registered along with the 10 underlying works—i.e., musical compositions, literary works, or dramatic works—for a total of twenty works in one application. So for example, if you’re a singer/songwriter who wants to register 10 of your songs, you can register all 10 of the sound recordings along with the 10 underlying musical compositions (lyrics, arrangement, etc.). If you’re a literary author, you can register your 10 novels along with the 10 audio book recordings of those novels. This assumes, of course, that all of these works are unpublished at the time the group registration application is submitted.

. . . .

To be eligible to use this new group registration option, there are a few requirements that must be met:

1. All the works registered using this group registration must have the same creator (or creators).

2. The creator(s) must also be named as the copyright “claimant.”

3. All the works registered must be the same type of work (literary works, visual works, sound recordings, performing arts works, or audiovisual works). Note that there’s a special exception (discussed above) that allows sound recordings to be registered along with literary works, musical works, or dramatic works, so long as those works are embodied in the accompanying sound recordings.

4. All of the works must be “unpublished.” Whether a work is considered “published” or “unpublished” can be a tricky. Click here for more information about how to determine whether your works are “unpublished” and qualify for this group registration.

. . . .

It’s a good idea to register your works with the Copyright Office as early as possible—i.e., before they are ever published or made available to others—in order to maximize the benefits of registration. For example, if you wait too long and your unpublished work is infringed before you’ve registered it, that work becomes ineligible for statutory damages or attorney’s fees in court.

Link to the rest at The Copyright Alliance

Against Catharsis: Writing Is Not Therapy

22 March 2019

From The Literary Hub:

I heard the boy scream before I saw him. Walking 125th Street, alone, I heard him cry out. Mom, he screamed. Mommy, please. The street was dark; the winter drafts wicked. I spun around to find the boy, no older than six, standing outside a Volvo station wagon, fists banging against the backseat window. Mommy, please. The boy kept pounding, slapping at the glass, his face a crumpled knot of agony, his knees giving out until he dropped to the pavement, begging. A man, or, a silhouette of a man, rushed toward the boy. I’m not sure where the man came from. He picked the boy up in his arms and the boy kicked, flailed, screaming with his little arms reached out for that car, for his mother.

I turned around and kept walking.


Throttled, was the word I used when I described the boy’s screams to my therapist. I’d waited a full week to tell this story. I hadn’t even told my fiancée, Hannah, whom I met for dinner just after the incident, and to whom I confide everything. I was throttled, sick, I said. Couldn’t breathe couldn’t think couldn’t help couldn’t do.

That boy at the car, he’d throttled me back in time in a way nothing else had for years. As he pounded on the window, I pounded at a window. As he screamed, I did, too.

Mother, Father, Let. Me. In.

. . . .

It must be so healing to write memoir is something I hear no fewer than a few times a day. It must be so therapeutic, so cathartic. These are the most popular words. The people who use these words mean well (for the most part). The people who say these words to me are saying them because I wrote a memoir about being a child—and now, an adult—on the other side of the glass.

. . . .

Nothing has healed. The glass, still, hasn’t a crack.

The Story is not The Life.

. . . .

Writing, for me, is no catharsis.

Writing is work. Writing is my job. Writing is the only divinity or spirituality I have found, a medium through which, at my best, I can speak through time and space; I can communicate across state lines and oceans, find my stories pressed between the hands of a girl in a waiting room, or the woman on a train, or a grandfather of six reading passages aloud (these are some of the letters I’ve received) and those hands will hold my stories safe.

Art is a superpower that allows creator and consumer to be in dialogue regardless of circumstance or logistics or miles, a shared experience, a third plane found when two people meet by seeing one another through the page (beautifully and more thoroughly described by Alexander Chee in How to Write an Autobiographical Novel). But to render the art, to render the experience, does not, in my practice, involve “bleeding into the typewriter.” It does not entail a writer spilling or spewing the memory onto a blank page, nailing it down, healing. Why not? Because that is literally impossible, and, while I can appreciate the romance of such proposals, the hypothetical possibility of this would not make for effective or moving literature.

. . . .

I am not proposing that we ignore the healing benefits of creation. What I am proposing is that we get real about what it means to render an experience for the sake of art, for the sake of sharing. To craft something and chisel it until there’s room for more than catharsis. What I want is the space for you, as you’re reading this essay, to read these words and supplant your own knowledge where mine breaks, to apply these ideas to your own work and your own opinions and purposes.

. . . .

Documentary photographers are still lighting their shots. They are still choosing just the right angle to allow us—the viewers—to take in the glory of the subject, or the absolute despair. There are other people and other scenes just inches outside of the frame, other ways to focus the lens. The photographer is not choosing the low speed film and wide shot to dupe us, they’re making these choices to show us the truth.

Link to the rest at The Literary Hub

Facebook Says It Left ‘Hundreds of Millions’ of Users’ Passwords Stored in Plain Text

21 March 2019

From The Washington Post:

Facebook on Thursday said that it had left “hundreds of millions” of users’ passwords exposed in plain text, potentially visible to the company’s employees, marking another major privacy and security headache for a tech giant already under fire for mishandling people’s personal information.

Facebook said it believed the passwords were not visible to anyone outside the company and had no evidence that its employees “internally abused or improperly accessed them.” But it said it would notify users of Facebook as well as its photo-sharing site, Instagram, that they had been affected.

The incident was first revealed by the Krebs on Security blog, which estimated the total number of affected users ranged between 200 million and 600 million. Facebook declined Thursday to confirm the estimate.

. . . .

Like most companies, Facebook said it stores passwords using a technique called hashing that’s supposed to make them unreadable. But a security review in January, detailed in a blog post Thursday, found they were actually stored in a readable format, a problem Facebook said it has since fixed. Most affected were users of Facebook Lite, the company said, a stripped-down version of the social network that’s largely in use in countries with lower Internet-connection speeds.

Link to the rest at The Washington Post

PG wonders if there is any manner in which Facebook can’t screw up.

A Brief History of “Unlikeable” Protagonists

21 March 2019

From Crime Reads:

Writers of “unlikeable” protagonists have it tough. They have to make their central character complex and interesting, and their story so compelling that a reader will put up with someone objectionable leading it. In real life, we might not be able to avoid the people we dislike: the narcissistic mother, the backstabbing boss, the professor with the personality disorder. But we can easily close a book.

An unlikable protagonist might be psychopathic, vain, silly, naïve, foolish, selfish, self-deluded, arrogant or, if you buy into a more superstitious notion, just plain evil. There are supremely unpleasant characters in literature—and not just in genre fiction—whose antics and boldness are so impressive that we can’t look away. It’s not just that they contrast so vividly with their supporting cast. We simply have to know what they’re going to do next. That’s when the story gets good.

The technique of employing an unlikable narrator didn’t begin with Gone Girl. Classic literature is full of them.

. . . .

The Grandmother, A Good Man is Hard to Find (short story), Flannery O’Connor, 1953

Narcissist, hypocrite, fantasist. The grandmother at the center of O’Connor’s classic short story initiates a dramatic chain of events that gets her entire family, including her grandchildren, murdered. She believes that everyone around her should bend to her beliefs and whims, and she shapes her self-righteous commentary and arguments to (in her mind) represent herself as an important, respectable, and piously Christian woman. Her desperate need for acknowledgement results in a fantasy that takes her vacationing family down an unfamiliar road where a freak accident will leave them all at the mercy of a notorious killer. While the story is fraught with religious and moral implications, it’s also a perfect gem of a read.

. . . .

Tom Ripley, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Patricia Highsmith, 1955

Psychopaths aren’t necessarily unlikeable, and Tom Ripley has a flattering, swindler’s charm that often works on his fellow characters, as well as many readers. His most prominent qualities are similar to those of many psychopaths: he’s remorseless, arrogant, charming, deceitful, and manipulative. He’s also murderous, but he murders with purpose, particularly when someone threatens his enjoyment of the finer things in life. On a list of unlikeable protagonists, he might be the least unlikeable, second only to the more recent Dexter Morgan, of Jeff Lyndsay’s Dexter series. At least Dexter keeps his murders focused on serial killers, and doesn’t project Ripley’s highly irritating arrogance.

Link to the rest at Crime Reads

Other unlikeable protagonists:

Next Step in Disinformation: How a Dating App Becomes a Weapon

21 March 2019

Not exactly to do with books, but PG is reading dystopian science fiction at the moment (Winter World by A.G. Riddle) and enjoying it, so, inasmuch as the OP felt a bit dystopian, it piqued PG’s interest and he thought it might also be a writing prompt.

From Just Security:

While the world grapples with Russia’s use of Twitter and Facebook to spread disinformation, a former NATO secretary-general recently voiced concerns that Russia was using Ukraine’s upcoming elections as a laboratory for new forms of interference. A troubling case may signal that disruptive innovation is already underway in the post-Soviet space, whether by Russia or by others: ruthless operatives in Ukraine have weaponized the dating application Tinder for political purposes.

The new case involves character assassination by means of fake digital avatars. This inexpensive and efficient disinformation strategy not only destroys reputations, but also threatens to cause social and political disruption on a national scale.

. . . .

On Nov. 7, 2018, a Facebook account belonging to Ukrainian university student Natalia Bureiko published a post accusing a top police official of sexual harassment. Her post included screenshots of a purported Tinder conversation with Officer Oleksandr Varchenko. In the screen shots, “Varchenko” threatens Bureiko when she turns down his demand for a sexual relationship.

Bureiko’s Facebook post claimed that Varchenko mailed her flowers with a box of raw chicken legs, and that he also had harassed her family and friends. In addition to posting the information on Facebook, Bureiko filed a formal complaint with the Prosecutor’s Office (the Ukrainian equivalent of a district attorney).

Her post became an overnight media sensation. It racked up several thousand comments and shares in just a few days. Almost all of the comments expressed outrage, not just at Varchenko, but at the police and government as a whole.

The only problem: The Tinder account and conversations were fake.

Varchenko denied the allegations, writing on Facebook that he had never corresponded with Bureiko and that “this information attack is related to the fact that my wife, Olha Varchenko, is the first Deputy Director of the State Bureau of Investigations, and for many it was a bone in the throat.”

Two days later, Bureiko posted a retraction on Facebook and then disappeared from the public eye for three weeks. When she resurfaced in an interview with Strana.ua, Bureiko claimed that someone she knew had offered to pay her roughly 50 U.S. dollars in exchange for access to her Facebook account. That same individual, Bureiko said, forced her to file the complaint at the prosecutor’s office, saying that would be the only way she could get her normal life back. Bureiko never named the person who allegedly did this. In this bombshell interview, Bureiko expressed regret at being used to facilitate a fake news campaign.

Shortly thereafter, Bureiko turned herself in to the Ukrainian police, reported the scheme to the police, and started living in an undisclosed location under the protection of Ukrainian law enforcement.

On Dec. 10, 2018, the Chief Military Prosecutor in the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine said he had identified 11 people involved in recent information attacks, including the Tinder scandal. The two suspects most closely tied to the Tinder attack are the infamous Ukrainian “political technologist” Volodymyr Petrov, and his friend, a blogger and former advisor to the minister of information policy, Oleksandr Baraboshko.

. . . .

Tinder may be a testing ground for developing the technology that combines “kompromat” (the Russian term for compromising information) and digital platforms. The Tinder attack clearly follows the pattern of Russian kompromat, a sabotage technique favored by the KGB and its successor agency, the FSB.

. . . .

Kompromat has never been easier or cheaper to manufacture. Creating a fake Tinder conversation does not require sophisticated technological capabilities. Anyone can do it. It is also cheap.

“In the 1990s, an individual seeking to discredit a rival could place a compromising news article in the most popular Russian daily newspaper, paying between $8,000 and $30,000 for it,” according to University of Washington Associate Professor Katy Pearce. “A television story to disgrace someone could cost between $20,000 and $100,000.”

Creating a dating app account, however, is free. So is posting on social media. Anyone can invent kompromat and then deploy it to the world.

The media environment in Ukraine was ripe for promoting the fake Tinder exchange via Facebook. In 2017, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko banned the country’s two most popular Russian social networks, Vkontakte (VK) and Odnoklassniki. Since that time, Facebook’s Ukrainian audience has grown dramatically, by about 3 million in the past year alone. Nowadays, Facebook is the predominant social media platform in the country and therefore a powerful tool for shaping public opinion.

. . . .

First, this type of digital campaign creates fake digital personalities, avatars that live forever online. Once disinformation is released, it persists on the internet. Even today, if one enters the Cyrillic spelling of Oleksandr Varchenko’s name into a search engine, his name appears amid a cloud of words like “harassment,” “scandal,” and “Tinder.” Controversial headlines are followed by images of the “Varchenko” Tinder account’s conversation with “Natalia Bureiko” and the photo of a gift-wrapped box of chicken legs. Oleksandr Varchenko’s public image is forever tarnished by a digital avatar that was created and managed by someone else.

. . . .

Third, and most sinister, the Varchenko-Bureiko Tinder scandal could be the beginning of a new phase of disinformation emanating from the former Soviet Union.

The social media environment makes it easy for people to represent themselves online, but also makes it easy for people to fraudulently misrepresent others in the digital world. As digital avatars proliferate across platforms, verifying account ownership without compromising personal privacy becomes a challenge. This case demonstrates the frightening ease of using dating apps and social media to create social disruption and political turmoil.

Link to the rest at Just Security

In the old days of the Cold War between the Soviets and their Eastern European satellites and the West, the conflict provided lots of fodder for riveting books – think Tom Clancy and John le Carré – but lately, a much-shrunken Russia, with an economy based on selling oil to the West seems more like a Middle-Eastern fiefdom than an existential threat to a great many readers.

But, social media is free and credulous journalists are never in short supply, so perhaps some sort of online Cold War can be fashioned for the benefit of those who miss the old days.

James Bond as a suave computer engineering genius will take some serious creative work (“A Kombucha. Shaken, not stirred.”), but PG suspects the Ian Fleming estate might be interested in a discussion.

Life in the Fast Lane

21 March 2019

The Tao of Sir Terry: Pratchett and Philosophy

21 March 2019

From Tor.com:

“Build a man a fire and he’s warm for a day,” I say. “But set a man on fire and he’s warm for the rest of his life. Tao of Pratchett. I live by it.” —Jim Butcher, Cold Days (2012)

That’s “Sir Terry” to you, Dresden… but other than that, the only wizard listed in the yellow pages is right on the money.

Terry Pratchett is best known for his incompetent wizards, dragon-wielding policemen, and anthropomorphic personifications who SPEAK LIKE THIS. And we love him for it. Once we’re done chuckling at Nanny Ogg’s not-so-subtle innuendos and the song about the knob on the end of the wizard’s staff, however, there’s so much more going on beneath the surface of a Pratchett novel. The real reason Pratchett’s work resonates so deeply with so many people around the world—and will continue to do so for decades to come—is that every one of his stories tugs at a deep, philosophical thread that sneaks up under the cover of action and punny dialogue to mug you faster than a denizen of the Shades.

. . . .

The Nature of Absurdism

“Magicians have calculated that million-to-one chances crop up nine times out of ten.” –Mort

Those unfortunates who have yet to read Pratchett properly may be tempted to dismiss his humorous approach to reality as simply “absurd”…as if that were a bad thing, synonymous with gratuitous laughs and an absence of deeper meaning.

They would be very wrong in this estimation, starting with the nature of the absurdity itself. The comic absurd in Pratchett goes far beyond a few, well-needed laughs, and serves a deeper purpose.

The hierarchy of wizards in Ankh-Morpork’s Unseen University serves as a good example. In Pratchett’s early works, the University is a seething hive of murder and destruction. Promotion through the Orders of the arcane comes mostly through assassination, the tradition known as “dead man’s pointy shoes.” That magical arms race inevitably leads to recklessness, and threatens to rip the veil between Universes and destroy the Discworld completely.

Enter the absurd, embodied in the larger-than-life person of Archchancelor Ridcully. The man’s name is Ridcully. He literally incarnates Ridiculousness. But he’s also the one to bring some semblance of stability and order to an organisation that wields the greatest powers below Cori Celesti. His absurd nature shapes the deadly seriousness around him into a tenable structure, and all the way down the hierarchy, you end up with wizards who are too busy murdering tea trolleys to murder each other.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, driven younger wizard Ponder Stibbons and, even more so, the genius Leonard of Quirm are the epitomes of Reason in an unreasonable Universe—as a result, they usually end up the most absurd of all.

Absurdity is the necessary bulwark that tempers Reason and Power—it is the only thing that stops these forces from turning on themselves and becoming instruments of corruption (like the magic wastelands left over from the Mage Wars), violence, and domination. And that’s true whether you’re sitting on a ball orbiting a larger, burning ball spinning around a supermassive black hole, or whether you’re on a disc on the back of four elephants, standing on a turtle swimming through space.

Link to the rest at Tor.com

Next Page »