concept to publication

Month: July 2008 Page 1 of 2

More marvels of machine translation

Google Blogoscoped has translated several Garfield strips into Chinese and back again using Google Translate.

garfield translated

Here’s the text, in case the strip is hard to read at this size.

Jon: Garfield, I retrieved a pair of slippers
Garfield: I am sorry, the cat is not worth a pair of slippers
Garfield: I will, however, capture extract


Fonts for sale at the Museum of Printing

If you’re anywhere around North Andover, MA, you might want to check these out. The sale runs through August 28.


Special offer: preview the Museum of Folly

If you are at all interested in the current arts scene, I’m sure you have heard a lot about about the imminent opening of the Museum of Folly; probably you are growing tired of the endless media coverage. What I have for you today is something entirely better. has arranged for a special preview of the museum, for its readers only!

While only a few display cases have been installed at this point, selected areas of the museum are nonetheless ready for viewing. To be one of the first to visit the new facility, just click on the screen shot below. (For the special tour, you will enter through the front entrance, but later you can use the member’s shortcut to the new acquisitions galleries.)

The Museum of Follys about age


Friday roundup

right linking

Where’s that accent from?

Here’s a fun little game from Language Trainers Group. Listen to people read a passage from “If” by Rudyard Kipling, than guess where they are from.

I scored 31. Is that good or bad?


Tom’s Book of Days

A little self-promotion here, tinged with a bit of nostalgia for the early days of the web. readers might not have chanced upon my Book of Days, over at the html wing of this site. This site’s origins go back to December 1994 when we launched the website of Mercury House, the book publishing company I directed. (I think it was one of the first book publishing websites.) An intern, Joshua Grossnickle (who has since gone on to bigger things), was responsible for that first version.

I partitioned a little section off as my personal space. In those days my personal web space was sort of resumelike (boring). Then I broke out of that mode with the daybook, which was the first ambitious personal project on the site. The Book of Days is still around and I update it from time to time. (I should probably redo it in a more web 2.0 style — but life is short.) It’s a personal daybook — I include what interests me, making no attempt to be exhaustive.

You could check it out.


How I always say it: this hole is quite fine good!

Machine translation: there’s nothing like it.

Enjoy this short video with babelfished dialogue.

World’s largest publishers

Some time ago I wrote about consolidation in publishing and the challenges facing independent book publishers. One result of this consolidation has been the transfer of ownership from the U.S. to other countries. In its July 14 issue, Publishers Weekly lists the world’s fifty largest publishers, based on dollar sales in fiscal or calendar 2007. How many of these fifty publishers are headquartered in the U.S.?

___ 7
___ 17
___ 27
___ 37

Answer after the jump.

Friday Roundup | Duly Quoted

If Folly link with Elegance no man knows which is which … – William Butler Yeats

Duly quoted

  • “If you like what happened to the price of gasoline with two oilmen running the government,” Mrs. McCain said gleefully, “you’ll love what will happen to the price of beer with a beerwoman as first lady!… If we can do for beer what Bush and Cheney did for oil,” the wife of the GOP candidate calculates, “I would think a $30.00 six-pack could be within reach by our second year in office.” (Robert S. McElvaine)

Incoming links


Two more tough words to spell

I wrote yesterday about a word that was misspelled by thirteen out of fourteen experienced editors. Here are two words from the test that were each missed by ten of the editors. The second one is a little surprising; at least, I consider it a basic word that any editor should know.

Pick the spelling preferred by Webster’s New Collegiate:

___ supercede
___ superceed
___ supersede
___ superseed

___ miniscule
___ minniscule
___ minnuscule
___ minuscule

Answers after the break . . .

A hard word to spell


It means “to dry; to preserve by drying.”

I’m hiring a temporary replacement editor for a colleague who will be out several months on a medical leave. I got a lot of very qualified applicants. To whittle them down I produced a test of 85 objective questions. I tested the top 14 candidates, all with sterling credentials. Apparently the test was harder than I thought — the average score was 66 percent.

The first twenty questions were multiple choice spelling questions. Thirteen of the fourteen editors disagreed with Webster’s New Collegiate on how this word is spelled:

___ desicate
___ desiccate
___ dessicate
___ dessiccate

Correct answer after the break . . .

Beatrix Potter rarities

beatrix potter, the rabbit's arrival

The resourceful Mr. Peacay of BibliOdyssey has collected a set of Beatrix Potter illustrations from archives at Sotheby’s and Christie’s auction houses. It’s an excellent set; shown is The Rabbits’ Christmas Party – The Arrival, the first of a series of six watercolour sketches from 1892.

See more examples here.


Reader sues over translations

The reader, Bradley LaShawn Fowler, is suing two Bible publishers (Thomas Nelson and Zondervan), alleging that the translators erroneously rendered a passage resulting in a false suggestion that it condemns homosexuality.

At issue is I Corinithians 6:9, and whether two Greek terms allude to homosexuality or prostitution or something else. (The King James version of the passage gives “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind.”)

The case is reported at Language Log, where the lively discussion it provoked included the following comments:

JACK COLLINS: Biblical scholars are actually pretty stumped about what exactly ???????????? were, since the term appears nowhere in the Greek corpus before Paul. Considering that there were quite a few terms for various sorts of male-male sexual practices in Koine Greek, it is curious that Paul chose to coin a whole new word. Literally, it would translate as “man bedders” or “bed men,” but that doesn’t really narrow it down. It is possible that Paul meant to allude to the Greek (Septuagint) translation of Leviticus 18:22 (??? ???? ??????? ?? ????????? ?????? ????????…, lit.”and with a man you will not sleep a woman’s bed…”). Whatever Paul’s intent, it probably was not to condemn male-male sexual relations between men of equal age and social status, since such relationships were rather uncommon in the Hellenistic world.

GORDONOZ: Maybe rich men should sue Bible translators, claiming they have been embittered and disappointed by their failed efforts to fit camels through the eyes of needles.

CRAIG RUSSELL: My opinion is that Fowler is barking up the wrong tree here. Paul probably did want to single out men who engaged in sexual activity with other men-especially given the context. “Pornoi” (as seen from the English derivative) and ‘moichoi’ are unquestionably sexual terms. Paul probably did consider it a sin for men to have sex with each other. For Fowler to insist that the Bible must mean what he already believes it to mean is no different from a fundamentalist insisting the same-it’s putting the answer before the question.


Big columns at the National Building Museum, Washington, DC

building museum columns

Huge, aren’t they? See them at the National Building Museum.

Kind of a random post, but I’m on the road and don’t have a lot of time for internet. Here’s another view of this remarkable building:

national building museum, washington, dc


Ghost type: borated talcum toilet powder

ghost type near harper's ferry, west virginia

I’m not sure how the advertiser managed to put this copy on a nearly sheer cliff high above the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers near Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia.

Much as I wanted to think they were promoting baking powder, considering the location’s unfortunate history I figured this was probably an ad for gunpowder or blasting powder (some of the words almost come into focus for me and then fade away). But to my surprise, now that I have internet I read that it was in fact an ad for “”Mennen’s Borated Talcum Toilet Powder.

The typeface is a little compressed and has a stencil quality. According to the National Park Service, it dates from 1903-1906. I guess it’s probably a little older than the ghost type from Baltimore that I posted a while ago.

The cliff with the sign is just to the left of the area shown in this image:

shenandoah river near harper's ferry, west virginia



Poor, poorer, porous

editorial mishaps: porous copy on the mall in washington, dc

Some pretty porous copy on this text panel about porous paving at the National Botanical Gardens near the capitol building in Washington, DC. (Official, nonpartisan, federal government-approved typos.)


Ghost type: coal tar products

ghost type: coal tar products

Rightreading has been on the road for a while, and mostly without an internet connection. I’ve encountered some interesting ghost type on my travels, such as this example from Baltimore’s Fell Point district. I figured this type was pretty old because of the small counters, a notion that was confirmed when I finally made out the first word and realized this building was advertising “coal tar products.” What is a coal tar product?


Copyright flow chart

The law firm of Bromberg and Sunstein has an unusually handy flow chart of U.S. copyright duration on their website.

Speaking of copyright, the flow chart bears a copyright notice. But I think I’m okay since the image below is too small to be usable. Click through to the original.

duration of copyright flow chart


Friday Fireworks

fireworks in san francisco

Linking fourth . . .

“Those who desire to give up freedom in order to gain security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.” — Benjamin Franklin


photo from tinou bao’s photostream


Helvetica clip

Here’s a short section from the documentary Helvetica, by Gary Hustwit. This section features a brief interview with Erik Spiekermann.

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