The Worldwide Weblog of Donald Pincher

Blogged prose fiction by Joshua Gaskell

The WEBMASTER to the READER

I am the WEBMASTER, and it is I that will be presenting to you, READER, the private journal of Donald Pincher, aspiring author. How I came to be possessed of it is no concern of yours. And in any case, if I did go about to tell you by what accident I obtained covert access to the file, it would in this unbelieving age pass for little more than the cant or jargon of the blogosphere. Suffice to say that he types Journal.doc on his computer (Windows ME) and, in his careless cyber-luddism, has left open a pathway vulnerable to exploitation by those of us who know the ways of data capture.
Pincher is a pious, small-c-conservative young fogey of the leftmost wing. He lives unfashionably in the London district of Forest Hill SE23, and devotes his life to writing entries in his Oxford Urban Dictionary, trying to find someone willing to publish his novel – five-hundred pages of relentless socialist manifesto masquerading as literature – and to being fruitlessly apoplectic about the price of things in the capital. A privacy obsessive, much of his novel consists of (in equal measure) decrying the dangers of the internet age, and mocking its pretentions. Which is why I thought it would be funny for him to write his own blog, even if it is one that he doesn’t know he’s writing.
Though the automatic-upload macro I’ve attached to Pincher’s journal makes me something of a deistical Prime Mover, I will occasionally deign to intervene in ‘the cool of the day’ (to footnote, to hyperlink, to tag, or otherwise curate). To this end you will know me by my dark-blue font.
Without further ado, I present to you what I’ve chosen to dub, in the idiom of its unwitting BLOGGER, The Worldwide Weblog of Donald Pincher

Monday, 1st September 2014

The Uses of Literally, part 94

In between the apparently correct – ‘In a literal, exact, or actual sense; not figuratively’ (OED) – and the apparently incorrect – ‘we were literally killing ourselves laughing’ – is the use of literally that is predicated on the vehicle being (strictly) literally true of a different sense of the tenor. For example, yesterday I heard on Radio 4,

While the horizontal aspect [of the New York grid] might be monotonous, its vertical aspect is certainly not. And obviously the skyscraper system of Manhattan has literally elevated that to a fine art.

Skyscrapers do literally elevate people – ‘raise [them] above the usual position, or above the level of surrounding objects’ (OED) – but do not literally elevate a non-monotonous vertical aspect to a fine art. This kind of use of literally insists too much on the aptness of the metaphor, and is therefore less modest than an alternative like as it were, which openly acknowledges metaphoricity.

Sunday, 31st August 2014

I am amused to discover that the initialism EQ originally denoted exactly what its current users most despise. Whereas now it refers to the ‘all must have prizes’ notion of an emotional intelligence quotient, it was first used to refer to a person’s educational quotient: ‘a numerical measure of educational level relative to age, arrived at by dividing educational age by chronological age, and freq. expressed as a percentage value’ (OED). It first appeared in a 1920 issue of the Teachers College Record, where an R. Franzen explained that, ‘The ratio of E.Q. to I.Q. gives the percentage of what that child could do, that he has actually done.’

Thursday, 14th August 2014

An urgent message to those taxonomists of the genus Bollocks who have of late been throwing around the redundant and illiterate word behaviours, along with references to so-and-so exhibiting a desirable behaviour or an undesirable behaviour. The word behaviour is uncountable: ‘that cannot form a plural or be used with the indefinite article’ (OED). So unless you’re in a psychology seminar or an HR wankathon, be’ave!

Wednesday, 13th August 2014

I wonder if the right-on Scots who think the independence referendum is ‘nothing to do with’ the rest of Britain, would admit that by the same logic Palestine is nothing to do with them.

Tuesday, 12th August 2014

High-definition television is an exciting new technology that everyone must adopt post-haste. It’s like nothing you’ve ever experienced. Witness this paean to the innovation:

Other companies, too, may [...] be given similar opportunities of providing high-definition television apparatus for transmission experiments.

Except that was written in 1933, since when viewers have periodically been told that last year’s high-definition telly is no longer anything of the sort and that they need a new one. It is, as Sony put it themselves, make-believe.

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