Monday, January 24, 2011

How many keys?

I am reading Bill Bryson's (or bill bryson, as he is described on the cover) "the mother tongue, english and how it got that way." Often, it happens that you are fully justified in castigating my careless capitalization, but in this case I am simply transcribing from the book cover. It was loaned to me by Dr. Funk. The subject interests me, and I find it delightful. It is a veritable mine of the sort of odd, erroneous or internally contradictory statements that I particularly enjoy.

"One of the persons to think to do so was, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, J.R.R.Tolkien, later to become famous as the author of the Hobbit trilogy."(capitalization his)

He is discussing the study of dialects. I suppose the superficial reader might miss Tolkien's interest in Linguistics. It is perfectly possible to assume that he was merely reporting those languages, not inventing them. It is rather surprising though, that he missed the fact that "The Hobbit" isn't a part of the trilogy, and that if you include it you have four books rather than three.

but it seems that math can be a problem, as witness;

"The Japanese have now managed to get around the pictographic problem by using a keyboard employing katakana syllables which are converted on the screen into kanji characters, rather as if we were to write "twenty percent" by striking 3 keys- "20," "per," "cent"- and then seeing on the screen one symbol: "20%."

How is it that I had to use 4 keys to get that 20%, I'm counting the shift of course, and, not counting the quote marks, 14 were needed for "twenty percent"

It is obvious that Mr. bryson's typing has become totally unconscious (I assume the Mr. should be capitalized, no?) There is, however a larger and subtle issue that over the years has become a great concern to me. I say this often, that it would seem that the public has become so passive that you can basically tell them anything and they won't challenge you. Amusing enough in this context, and I am enjoying the book, and I hope Mr. bryson will take my carping in good sport and not mind so much his poor math being pointed out. But in the political arena this passivity is being used to persuade the public into any unthinking position that certain politicians want them to take, and there it is dangerous.

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