Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction: “This work-in-progress is a comprehensive quotation-based dictionary of the language of science fiction. The HD/SF is an offshoot of a project begun by the Oxford English Dictionary (though it is no longer formally affiliated with it).”
From Discover Magazine’s article People Have Used They/Them as Singular Pronouns for Hundreds of Years:
Battles of grammar, for the most part, play out in English classrooms and in the pages of style guides. Rarely do arguments over split infinitives and Oxford commas venture beyond the walls of academia.
My first thought at this point was that whoever wrote this article definitely doesn’t have my circle of online friends. Oxford commas in particular are a regular source of entertainment, especially the amusing images produced when the Oxford comma isn’t used. And while there certainly are academics among my friends, such posts definitely aren’t limited to that group.
But one linguistic phenomenon lands in the limelight every so often, and it’s a word you know well: the pronoun “they” — along with its derivatives “them” and “their.”
I don’t really expect that I have many–if any–regular contacts who are still prescriptivist about singular “they”; in my circles, it seems to be at or near universal acceptance. But this was still an interesting look into its history and usage.
Kirby Conrod, a linguistics professor at the University of Washington whose own personal pronouns are they/them, polls students each semester to assess their feelings about this specific usage of the word. Most have no objection; some, especially those who grew up using singular “they” with nonbinary friends, are simply confused — why would the professor ask about such a mundane word? “It’s really already hit the threshold of this critical mass,” Conrod says. “It’s part of the language enough that I don’t think you could squash it if you tried.”
Sometime between November 29th and January 2nd, I thought this stuff was interesting. You might think so too!
- 365 IETF RFCs: a 50th anniversary dive: "April 7th, 2019 is going to be the 50 year anniversary of the first ever Request for Comments, known as an RFC. These documents started out in 1969 as a way for ARPANET engineers to keep track of notes and discussions on their project. In honor of this anniversary, I figured I would read one RFC each day of 2019, starting with RFC 1 and ending with RFC 365."
- Is Grover swearing? No, it’s in your ears.: “As a phonetician, these types of misperceptions are sometimes fun because they force you to carefully listen to what people (in this case, Grover's voice) are doing as they produce speech very quickly. Phoneticians focus on the transcription and, more often, careful analysis of speech. Speech is fast, speech is messy, and when the conditions are right, one can misperceive one sound for another.”
- Against Peter Jackson’s “They Shall Not Grow Old”: "Peter Jackson’s They Shall Not Grow Old is…a stunning technical achievement made by a filmmaker and producer at the top of their form. […] But…I can’t help but refuse and reject this picture in the strongest possible terms. It is a brilliant film that is also, unfortunately, a total mistake."
- On radical kindness (another aspect of hopepunk): “i will say this again: we are all going to die. the universe is enormous and almost entirely empty. to be kind to each other is the most incredible act of defiance against the dark that i can imagine.”
- The opposite of grimdark is hopepunk:: “The world is the world. It’s really good sometimes and it’s really bad sometimes, and it’s sort of humdrum a lot of the time. People are petty and mean and, y’know, PEOPLE. There are things that need to be fixed, and battles to be fought, and people to be protected, and we’ve gotta do all those things ourselves because we can’t sit around waiting for some knight in shining armor to ride past and deal with it for us. We’re just ordinary people trying to do our best because we give a shit about the world. Why? Because we’re some of the assholes that live there.”
Sometime between May 13th and May 25th, I thought this stuff was interesting. You might think so too!
- George Takei Accuser Scott Brunton Changed His Story of Drugs, Assault: “A fabricated coffee meeting. Key facts withheld or walked back. A ‘great party story’ about a sexual assault—which the accuser now says may not have actually happened. What happens when an activist’s legacy is tarnished by the story of an old friend who later says it could have all been a misunderstanding? And how do we process such an anomaly in an era of overdue social justice?l
- when i say ‘don’t make jokes about rednecks and hillbillies’, that doesn’t mean i think you’re being racist against white people: “i say that because you are perpetuating extremely toxic rhetoric about our region, you are promoting stigma, you are encouraging blatant classism, and you are furthering the idea that we somehow ‘deserve’ it because our elected officials vote republican. it’s not cute. stop acting like none of us have the right to call you out on your classist bullshit.“
- Dear NRA, It’s Time to Take Away Everyone’s Gun: “I’m finished trying to reason with you. So now I, a guy who was ambivalent about guns just a few years ago, want to take your guns away. All of them. I want to take them all and melt them down and shape them into a giant sphere and then push it at you so you have to run away from it like Indiana Jones for the rest of your lives. I want Ted Nugent to roam the halls of his gunless house, sighing wearily until he dies. I want to end this thing once and for all, so that all of you who have prioritized the sale of guns over the lives of children have to sit quietly and think about what you’ve done. God help me, I want to take all of your guns out of your hands, by myself, right now.”
- The respect of personhood vs the respect of authority: "In April 2015, Autistic Abby wrote on their Tumblr about how people mistakenly conflate two distinct definitions of 'respect' when relating to and communicating with others. This is an amazing & astute observation and applies readily to many aspects of our current political moment."
- How the 50-mm Camera Lens Became ‘Normal’: “The idea that a 50-mm best approximates human sight has more to do with the early history of lens production than any essential optical correspondence between the lens and the eye.”
Sometime between May 3rd and May 7th, I thought this stuff was interesting. You might think so too!
- Connecticut OKs Bill Pledging Electoral Votes To National Popular-Vote Winner: “The bill adopts an interstate compact that's officially called ‘The Agreement Among the States to Elect the President by National Popular Vote.’ The agreement won't kick in unless it's backed by enough states and other voting areas to claim a majority of Electoral College votes. In addition to Connecticut, the other jurisdictions in the pact are California, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington state, along with Washington, D.C.”
- The original iMac: 20 years since Apple changed its fate: “Sitting in the Flint Center in 1998, it would have been impossible to imagine the Apple of 2018. But without that day, and the product that Steve Jobs unveiled on that stage, it’s hard to imagine that Apple would have ever had the chance to become what it is today.”
- One space between each sentence, they said. Science just proved them wrong.: Bah! Science did no such thing! It’s one study with a small sample size, screwball parameters (Courier? Seriously?), and a barely measurable result that only really affected those participants already predisposed to two-spacing. Sentences get one space, and one space only. (My favorite part: “Note: An earlier version of this story published incorrectly because, seriously, putting two spaces in the headline broke the web code.”)
- ‘Who Gets to Be Sexy?’: Interesting look at how the porn industry is changing. “Amateurs are flooding the internet; piracy has addled the once-dominant studios; production has atomized and scattered. But along the way, something interesting has started to happen: Women are rising up.”
- Swedish Meatballs Are Turkish? ‘My Whole Life Has Been a Lie’: “The country’s national Twitter account made the announcement in a tweet this week. ‘Swedish meatballs are actually based on a recipe King Charles XII brought home from Turkey in the early 18th century,’ the tweet said. ‘Let’s stick to the facts!’”
Sometime between April 19th and April 30th, I thought this stuff was interesting. You might think so too!
- John Scalzi: Thoughts on Avengers: Infinity War (and Yes, There are Spoilers): "As impressively well put together as it is, and as enjoyable and exciting as the film is in the moment, the film suffers and for me is ultimately unsatisfying. Not for anything the film itself does or doesn’t do; it suffers not because of what it does, but because of what I know."
- Avengers: Infinity War ending: Incredibly bold — and a little cheap: SPOILERS: “…as I talked over the ending with friends, the less it sat well with me. I certainly admired the gutsiness of it, the big swing it took, but I also struggled to feel as emotionally invested in it as I was supposed to. For lack of a better word, none of it felt real.” I might not go quite so far as this analysis does, but I don’t argue with its core idea, and was having similar thoughts.
- “When people say ‘spinster’, they are trying to conjure up an image of a little old lady who is lonely and bitter.”: “What I HEAR are the smiles and laughter of a million women as they earned their own money in their own homes and controlled their own fortunes and lived life on their own terms, and damn what society expected of them.”
- When Toronto Suspect Said ‘Kill Me,’ an Officer Put Away His Gun: Look, I know that there are going to be situations where the use of deadly force is a necessary step. But it should be a last step, not a first step — something that seems all too mysterious to far too many people, not least many police here in the United States. De-escalation should be the default approach, rather than the "shoot first, ask questions later" approach seemingly favored by far too many people (both law enforcement officers and armchair analysts).
- What Does Invoking The 25th Amendment Actually Look Like?: "Let’s take a deeper look at the 25th Amendment and think about what each section of it has meant in the past — and what it might mean for Trump-era politics." I'm rather fascinated (and disappointed) that we're in a situation where this is even being seriously discussed. But it is, admittedly, and interesting discussion.
Sometime between April 12th and April 15th, I thought this stuff was interesting. You might think so too!
- GrayKey iPhone unlocker poses serious security concerns: “The existence of the GrayKey isn’t hugely surprising, nor is it a sign that the sky is falling. However, it does mean that an iPhone’s security cannot be ensured if it falls into a third party’s hands.”
- While TOS is my home fandom, I’m of the belief that as a whole, DS9 is the best of the various Star Trek series.: "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was not a perfect show but its treatment of imperialism, war crimes, and genocide was light-years ahead of some of the stuff coming out today (looking at you, Star Wars)."
- A short history ~700 years of “they” as an English gender-neutral singular pronoun:: “Bath ware made sun and mon, / Aiþer wit þer ouen light [Both were made sun and moon / Either with their own light]” —Cursor Mundi (~1325)
- poor people deserve things they want, too.: "These tiny luxuries you give yourself are not sins as dictated from on high by some divine economist who decided you must earn your freedom through oppressive sorrow. These luxuries are the handholds you need to climb out of that pit, to have stamina, to keep focus, to remember that there is another type of life. It can be had, and by you too."
- Charities/organisations to avoid (with links to reasons):: PETA, FCKH8, Autism Speaks, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, The Salvation Army, Wounded Warrior (I knew all of these already, but it's good to have a handy reference)
Sometime between May 28th and June 15th, I thought this stuff was interesting. You might think so too!
- Why is English so weirdly different from other languages?: No, English isn’t uniquely vibrant or mighty or adaptable. But it really is weirder than pretty much every other language.
- PureText: Have you ever copied some text from a web page, a word document, help, etc., and wanted to paste it as simple text into another application without getting all the formatting from the original source? PureText makes this simple.
- Let’s Be Real: Americans Are Walking Around With Dirty Anuses: “I find it rather baffling that millions of people are walking around with dirty anuses while thinking they are clean. Toilet paper moves shit, but it doesn’t remove it. You wouldn’t shower with a dry towel; why do you think that dry toilet paper cleans you?”
- The Racist History of Portland, the Whitest City in America: All in all, historians and residents say, Oregon has never been particularly welcoming to minorities. Perhaps that’s why there have never been very many. Portland is the whitest big city in America, with a population that is 72.2 percent white and only 6.3 percent African American.
- No more ‘product of its time,’ please:I don’t think that we should hide texts with troubling elements. They are part of the literary canon and they have influenced us, for both good and ill. We should definitely be reading them, and we should also be talking about them. A lot.
Sometime between April 27th and May 17th, I thought this stuff was interesting. You might think so too!
- The Case of the Stolen Source Code: Last week, for about three days, the macOS video transcoding app HandBrake was compromised. One of the two download servers for HandBrake was serving up a special malware-infested version of the app, that, when launched, would essentially give hackers remote control of your computer. // In a case of extraordinarily bad luck, even for a guy that has a lot of bad computer luck, I happened to download HandBrake in that three day window, and my work Mac got pwned. // Long story short, somebody, somewhere, now has quite a bit of source code to several of our apps.
- JSON Feed: Announcing JSON Feed: We — Manton Reece and Brent Simmons — have noticed that JSON has become the developers’ choice for APIs, and that developers will often go out of their way to avoid XML. JSON is simpler to read and write, and it’s less prone to bugs. So we developed JSON Feed, a format similar to RSS and Atom but in JSON. It reflects the lessons learned from our years of work reading and publishing feeds.
- Let’s discuss the Linguistic & Pragmatic use of the [“N-word”]: No matter what your intentions, the word WILL mean something different depending on your relative status. Language is circumstancial.
- The neural network writes the episode list for next season’s Dr. Who: I’ve trained this open-source neural network framework on a variety of datasets, including recipes, Pokemon, knock-knock jokes, pick up lines, and D&D spells. Now I give you: training a neural network on the complete list of Dr. Who episodes.
- What we really need is an adaptation of the original 1740 The Beauty and the Beast: So were you aware that the The Beauty and the Beast story we all know is a heavily abridged and rewritten version of a much longer novella by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve? And that a lot of the plot holes existing in the current versions exist because the 1756 rewrite cut out the second half of the novella, which consisted entirely of the elaborate backstory that explains all the weird shit that happened before? And that the elaborate backstory is presented in a way that’s kind of boring because the novel had only just been invented in 1740 and no one knew how they worked yet, but contains a bazillion awesome ideas that beg for a modern retelling? And that you are probably not aware that the modern world needs this story like air but the modern world absolutely needs this story like air?
Sometime between April 8th and April 10th, I thought this stuff was interesting. You might think so too!
- Weeping Angels and everything that sucks about Steven Moffat: Spoiler warning for…all of Doctor Who basically. At least the new stuff. And some of Sherlock.
- Stylistic Differences in Traditional [Vulcan] Calligraphy: Kol-ut-shan (IDIC) in Vulcan calligraphy. This may well end up inked on me at some point in the future.
- Hubble Contacts: Low-cost subscription model service for daily wear contacts. I usually wear monthly, but it may be worth comparing prices.
- IPA Phonetic Transcription of English Text: This online converter of English text to IPA phonetic transcription will translate your English text into its phonetic transcription using International Phonetic Alphabet.
- Y’all, You’uns, Yinz, Youse: How Regional Dialects Are Fixing Standard English: So what’s the history of y’all? How did such an amateur linguistic fix become a pillar of everyday speech?