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Game Designer's Notebook - the birth of Breaking Away
Keeping It Simple - advice on games design from James Ernest of Cheapass Games
GCSE Graphics Course: Producing A Board Game
Tunnels & Trolls: 1984 interview with the designer.
Music To My Eras - musings on musical fashions
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Mind your language
This section of the web site is called Words and as it happens "words" and being pedantic about them is one of my interests.
This would, perhaps, be pardonable if I observed the highest standards of grammatical etiquette but I don't; most of the time I sound like I have been to Ian Dury's masterclass in language mangling.
Spelling, mispronunciation, malapropisms all bring out the tiresome pedant in me. Even though I believe that as a living language English should be allowed to evolve, I can't help wincing when I hear someone say "from whence" instead of "whence". If I am feeling particularly bold or I know the person well I'll generally lean over and explain that as the word whence means "from where", when they say from whence they are saying the equivalent of from from where, which sounds like the name of a dodgy 1960's French chanteuse.
I can't help correcting my son when he says "should of" instead of "should have", even though the percentage of the populace who say "should of" is now so high that it will not be long before dictionaries acknowledge the legitimacy of "should of" as an expression.
Which reminds me; why do Americans use the curious phrasing "it was not that big of a car" instead of the simpler "it was not that big a car"? It's not that they are keen to add superfluous words otherwise they would say "write to me" as the British do instead of "write me", or "he's in the back" instead of "in back".
But I digress. (You can't start a sentence with a but!) Oh, but I can.
A while back a fellow gamer who happened to be a teacher - but only a Physics teacher so that does not really count - picked me up on my use of the word less when I should have said fewer. "Ah yes, but I've got less units than you."
"Fewer units, you mean," he said.
I would not have minded but not only was he a Physics teacher but a Welsh speaker to boot!
Actually instead of being offended at having my grammar corrected I was quietly thrilled. Here was another little imperfection I could pick other people up on.
I take comfort in the fact that I am not totally obsessed by adherence to grammatical rules. A preposition is something with which I am happy to end a sentence ....
Fowler says (and I agree, which I am sure he'll find heartening) that people who insist on worrying about split infinitives and sentences ending with prepositions are trying to impose the strictures of Latin on the English language. Seeing as English is not Latin there is no reason why it should follow the same rules.
In my day job I am a journalist so I suppose that might have encouraged my pedantry. Before the days of spell checkers I would cheerfully spend my day correcting spelling mistakes and typing errors. This was particularly crucial when reporting on African affairs of state as there was a prominent statesman at the time named Sithole whose name just invited a crude mistype.
Perhaps as a hangover from my editing days I still have a sharp eye for a typo or misspelling. The two words I see mispelled most frequently are lose, which is often spelt as loose, and definitely, which is often spelt as definately.
Now, if people habitually spell the word lose as loose, how do they spell the word loose? Looose, perhaps?
As for people who spell definitely as definately, how do they spell the word definition? As defination? That sounds like something boy racers do with their car stereos.
I can understand years ago people being unaware that they spelled certain words incorrectly because no fool is going to double-check every word in the dictionary, but now we have word processors, surely the definately crowd must get tired of having this misspelling corrected, even if the loose crowd remain blissfully unaware of their misspelling of the word lose because loose is a genuine word that would not be recognised as an error by the spell-check (called a literal in the trade, I believe).
As for people who pronounce the letter H as haitch instead of aitch, this really used to get on my tits until I learnt that these people were so certain that their pronunciation was correct that you could win easy money off them in a bet. Even after they handed over the money most of them insisted that the dictionary was wrong because their teacher had taught them to pronounce the letter that way.
A high proportion of haitchers seem to come from Ireland where perhaps haitch is the correct pronunciation [I've since heard it said that, like so many things in Ireland, there is a religious divide on the pronunciation of aitch.].
I find it ironic that among a group of people (Londoners in particular) where the letter H is routinely dropped from the start of words ("I didn't 'ave an 'ope") so many people incorrectly add a redundant aitch at the start of the letter aitch.
"Ah yes!" they argue, "of course it begins with a haitch because the letter haitch makes a huh sound."
Well, if that is the case why don't we pronounce the letter F as "feff" because it makes a fuh sound? What about the letters lel, mem, nen, rar, ses, wubble-you, xex and ywhy?
Recently (long after this article was first written), the Oxford English Dictionary has, quite literally, recognised the use of the word "literally" to mean "figuratively".
I was literally flabbergasted when I heard about this. Figuratively, you could have knocked me down with a feather and, given my puny physique, maybe you have literally knocked me down with a feather as well.
Another thing that is irritating me immensely at the moment is tautologies - the needless repetition of the same thing using different words.
"Safe haven" is the big one I see in my day job; if a haven is not safe, it is not a haven. "Safe harbour", on the other hand, is acceptable because not all harbours are safe.
On my way to work I often pass a branch of the bafflingly popular sandwich franchise Subway and one day I saw the following on a poster outside the shop: Don't wait in line, pre-order your food over the phone.
Translating that into English, I think that means: "Avoid the queue by phoning in your order".
The use of "pre" as a preface seems a relatively new phenomenon.
Phone conversations used to go like this:
Buyer: Is the new book by P.E. Dantic out yet?
Seller: No. It has not been released yet.
Buyer: May I order it then, please?
Now, instead of ordering it, we apparently have to pre-order it.
The other day someone tried to pre-notify me of something, but I refused to accept it unless he gave me advance warning - those retrospective warnings are so useless, don't you think? - that he was going to pre-notify me.
On the subject of advance warnings, I see the Bank of England (BoE) pretty quickly abandoned its policy of offering "forward guidance" on interest rates and inflation trends; offering "backward guidance" is a lot easier but pretty useless, so I think simply offering "guidance" would have sufficed, but the BoE can't even do that because interest rates are set in stone and inflation is as predictable as a cricket score when Pakistan is involved in a dead rubber.
If you know of any words that are commonly misspelt (or is that misspelled?), mispronounced or used in the wrong context do let us know. Perhaps your pet hate is nouns transitioning (sic) into verbs. Alternatively maybe you have a foible of your own, something else that inexplicably drives you nuts, like people who sniff instead of using a hanky, or people who don't stand on the right hand side of the escalators on the London Underground. If so, drop us a line and we'll feature them in a future article.
(JH replies: Is that "alternate" pronunciation or "alternative"? "Alternative" is more common in the UK with "alternate" thought of more as a verb. It is ironic that the word "pronunciation" is one of the most commonly mispronounced words. Many people seem to think it is spelt pronounciation.)
(JH replies: I will try and do better in future, Shirley!
That should be "try to do better, surely?
Yes it should - and don't call me Shirley!)
(JH replies: Just refer to them as the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank. They will be heading back there soon anyway, I expect.)
(JH: Never surrender, Hazel!)
(JH: The upward inflection drives me crazy? It makes me want to kill them? Imagine if we did that in print, like I am doing now?
A close friend of mine earns a few pennies completing market research questionnaires online and goes apoplectic if he is ever asked to rate, on a scale of one to five presumably, "how unique" a product is.
How dead was he, exactly, officer?
There is a lovely woman I work with who has taken this a step further, and is doing that extensive elongation of syllables that seems to be popular among Valley Gurrrrrrrrrls in California. She sounds like Donald Sinden or, more accurately, Spittin' Images' impersonation of Donald Sinden.)
(JH: That must have made you want to ger-nore your own fingers off.)
(JH: Watching the Ashes series it was noticeable how often the Aussie commentators used the phrase "pretty ordinary". It appears to be a euphemism for "bad" but I presume a recently retired cricketer can't bring himself to use that adjective to describe a player with whom he has probably played with or against. I find that pretty ordinary.)
(JH: Aging is an American spelling, and while I understand the reasoning behind removing what Americans regard as superfluous letters (e.g. color, medieval), "aging" just looks wrong, as if the letter G should be pronounced as a hard "guh" rather than a soft "zyuh".
My spill-chucker (ho, ho) seems to accept either spelling of whinging/whingeing.
On the subject of Americanisms, what's with this word "ouster", meaning removal of a person from office. Surely an ouster is the person doing the ousting, not the act itself?)
(JH: Sorry, my web editor cannot cope with those characters, so you'll just have to guess what they are.)
(JH: I would pronounce it as "an aitch". Did you know the word orange was originally "norange" but after years of referring to "a norange" it became "an orange". Perhaps "an naitch" would lead to the letter H being pronounced "naitch", which I would not mind so much; it is partly because people who pronounce H as "haitch" routinely drop their aitches on other words that I get so irked by it.)
(JH: In which case Anthony - or Anphony as some people would not doubt call you - I will not print your reply. Oops! Too late!
Thanks for your comments.)
(JH: It has got to the stage in my regular gaming group now that less and fewer must both be used incorrectly, as a matter of course. "I lost that game because I had fewer time," or "I do not think any fewer of you just because you came fifth in a four player game".
(JH: I am surprised no one has mentioned "libary" yet. "Arks" instead of "ask" is another interesting one; I believe it has crossed over from the Afro-American community into general parlance, innit?)
(JH: Much as I love pronouncing lieutenant the English way, no one ever takes a day off in left, do they?
As for schedule/skedule, I probably imagined this, but I thought in British English we use the K pronunciation when it is an agenda and the SH one when it is a timetable. I'm probably full of skit on this one, though.)
(JH: Yes, indeed. I believe the Americans pronounce the brand Pew-got. If there are any Americans reading this, try pronouncing it Purr-zho if you want to sound a tad European.
The sports shoe company set up by Adi Das is routinely pronounced by septics (Cockney rhyming slang - look it up) as if it had been set up by someone called Adee Das.
On one of the rare occasions I watched an episode of "Friends", the Ross character was talking about having spent some time in Ib-itzer; it took me ages to realise he meant Ibiza (ib-eef-ah).
Which reminds me: is Ibiza in the Bally-arric islands or the B'leer-ic?)
And what about Pew instead of Per in Peugeot?
(JH: I never really thought about the gamer thing until now. In my day job I often have to write about "online gaming companies" when my natural inclination is to call them "online gambling companies".)
(JH: I am on shaky ground here, Rob. My parents and my brother and sister are all Cockneys, and I am from your actual Essex estuary area, so I am afraid the glottal stop is part of my 'eritage.
I've toned it down over the years but there was a time when not only would I have pronounced "cartoon" as "car-oon" but also "something" as "sunnink".)
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