Jon Lord has passed away

One my all-time musical heroes has passed away.

Jon Lord

It is with deep sadness we announce the passing of Jon Lord, who suffered a fatal pulmonary embolism today, Monday 16th July at the London Clinic, after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. Jon was surrounded by his loving family.Jon Lord, the legendary keyboard player with Deep Purple co-wrote many of the bands legendary songs including Smoke On The Water and played with many bands and musicians throughout his career.

Best known for his Orchestral work Concerto for Group & Orchestra first performed at Royal Albert Hall with Deep Purple and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in 1969 and conducted by the renowned Malcolm Arnold, a feat repeated in 1999 when it was again performed at the Royal Albert Hall by the London Symphony Orchestra and Deep Purple.

Jon Lord’s output has been an essential part of my music catalogue since my early teens, covering his work in Deep Purple, PAL, many other groups, as well as many of his magnificient solo outputs. He was a brilliant musician, composer and arranger, and always a delight to listen to when interviewed.

R.I.P. Jon.

Flying cars! Finally!

The Week has the following item:

Terrafugia, a company that manufactures “roadable aircrafts,” scores [US] government approval to make vehicles of the future a reality …

Terrafugia said it expects to begin delivering the first few Transition vehicles late next year.

I’ve been waiting for these for ages.

No doomsday in sight, yet

Ok, so the world didn’t end last Saturday, as Harold Camping said it would. Consequently he has realised that he made a mistake in his original calculations, and has now offered a new rapture date, sometime in October later this year. Well, we’ll see about that.

Doomsday prophets are a funny lot. Even funnier are their followers, as evident from this Yahoo News piece:

The classic study of “doomsdays gone bad” took place in 1954. A Chicago woman named Dorothy Martin predicted a cataclysmic flood from which a few true believers would be saved by aliens. Martin and her cult, The Seekers, gathered the night before the expected flood to await the flying saucer … as the appointed time passed with no alien visitors, the group sat stunned. But a few hours before dawn, Martin suddenly received a new prophecy, stating that The Seekers had been so devout that God had called off the apocalypse. At that, the group rejoiced — and started calling newspapers to boast of what they’d done.

So even when a prophecy fails, it is taken as positive proof of the prophecy. How about that.

30 movies in the public domain

Sometimes movies slip into the public domain, somewhere in the world. The legal frameworks differ from country to country, so what may be in the public domain in one country may not be so in another. Whatever may be the case, the Internet Archive stores a multitude of movies (as well as books and other material) that are in the public domain in the US. Luckily, they are accessible to anyone with an internet connection.

Obviously the cinematic quality varies from entry to entry, but it would be wrong to assume that they’re all crap. No doubt some/many are. However, besides a considerable amount of wonderful silent movies, the Internet Archive offers quite a few top-quality talkies as well, for instance, Rene Clair’s And Then There Were None (1945) based on the classic Agatha Christie novel, Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946) featuring Barbara Stanswyck, D.O.A. (1950) featuring Edmond O’Brien, Charade (1963) with Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant, George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968) featuring the best of the zombies, Horror Express (1972) with Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, as well as several of Alfred Hitchcock’s pre-Hollywood titles, such as The 39 Steps and The Lady Vanishes. It’s an odd feeling seeing such extraordinary titles in the public domain. But there they are.

Here’s a selection of 30 titles, some good, some bad:

The 39 Steps 1935
One of Hitchcock’s best-loved movies. As many of his films, it’s about a man who is falsely accused of murder. He gets caught in a deadly spy game trying to clear himself. It features Robert Donat as a suave hero, and Madeleine Carroll as the woman who inadvertently ens up helping him. This is one of Hitchcock’s absolutely best movies.

The Lady Vanishes 1938
Another Hitchcock classic, featuring Margaret Lockwood and (a somewhat dull) Michael Redgrave. On a long train journey, Lockwood befriends an older woman who later just vanishes into thin air. Curiously, no one on the train can even remember ever having seen her. Suspense and mystery follows. A must-see Hitchcock classic.

His Girl Friday 1940
Classic American screwball comedy featuring Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell. The Grant plays a newspaper editor bent on keeping his star reporter (Russell) on his staff. She, however, has decided to leave her career and marry an insurance salesman instead. Fast-paced and funny.

The Adventures of Tartu 1943
This is quite a jolly WW2 spy flick featuring Robert Donat as some kind of über-cool proto-James Bond. He plays a British Captain who is sent behind enemy lines into Checzoslovakia on a sabotage mission, with the purpose of blowing up a factory. The version available at the Internet Archive is a US edit of an originally British film known as Sabotage agent. Apparently the US edit is quite different from the original UK one. But as I haven’t seen the original, I don’t know which is better. The US edit is in any event damned entertaining. The production values alone raise this movie to A-list material. And how could any movie featuring Donat as a suave spy be bad!

And Then There Were None 1945
This is the ultimate movie version of Agatha Christie’s classic mystery novel. Ten people are trapped on a remote island, and they are killed off one by one. But who is the murderer? The actors are all stellar, delivering their well-written dialogues impecably. The camera work is exceptional and daring. (For a long time, I was convinced Alfred Hithcock had directed this.) The movie is worthwhile watching even when you know who the murderer is. I’ve seen it several times, and I enjoy it just as much every time. It’s simply a darned good movie.

The Stranger 1946
An almost forgotten Orson Wells classic, featuring the director himself as an escaped Nazi war criminal and Edward G. Robinson as the detective who is hunting him. It develops into a very suspenseful cat-and-mouse game in a small town somewhere in America. This is a great noir film.

Strange Love of Martha Ivers 1946
Another highly enjoyable film noir. This one features Barbara Stanswyck, playing a rich business woman who built her vast empire with the inheritance she got as a young child after accidentally killing her domineering aunt. In her youth, she once tried to run away with a boy she loved, but the humourless aunt put a stop to that, leading to a fight in which the aunt was killed. The boy disappeared, and Stanswyck’s character eventually married another boy instead. Eighteen years later, the boy she once loved returns, now a grown man. Drama, tension, and suspicions follow. Even though the music can be a bit over-bearing sometimes, this is a really good noir film.

D.O.A. 1950
This is classic must-see film noir. It’s one of those movies everyone should see, at least once. It starts with a man stumbling into a police station. He starts to tell the story of how he was murdered. Brilliant set-up! The movie is then told in flashbacks, and it never gets boring.

Rocketship X-M 1950
This one’s about a rocket aimed for the moon, but which inadvertently lands on Mars instead. There the crew stumbles on a savage people intent on killing them. The movie isn’t very good. The story drags endlessly, but at least it lacks the traditional Hollywood ending, making the final scene(s) somewhat tolerable.

Cyrano de Bergerac 1950
Classic dramatisation of a classic novel, featuring Jose Ferrer. The story is set in 17th-century France, and is about a swordsman with a big nose and a poetic mind, who helps an annoying and shallow-minded fellow swordsman to get the girl of his own dreams. The book has been filmed many times, and ought to be familiar to most. This 1950-version is still generally regarded as one of the best. And it certainly is.

Charade 1953
This consists of three separate stories all featuring James and Pamela Mason. The first story is a murder mystery set in Paris involving a murderer and the one witness who can frame him. The second involves an unusual duel between two 19th-century Austrian officers. The third is about a rich man bored with his wealth, so he tries on a variety of nobody-jobs during which he falls madly in love. The stories are all well-acted (it’s James Mason after all), and there’s a pace and charm to the whole proceedings that makes this a very enjoyable watch.

Cat Women of the Moon 1953
In this mind-numbingly dull space adventure, a group of astronauts lands on the moon. There they find a hostile community of telepathic women in tight, black suits. It’s awful. Really, really awful.

Suddenly 1954
This one features Frank Sinatra and Sterling Hayden. It starts with a group of assassins, led by Sinatra’s character, who take hold of a house in a small town, through which the US president is scheduled to pass. They keep several people hostage, including the local sheriff, played by Hayden. It is suspenseful and dramatic all the way through. A very good film.

Hercules 1958
Italian fantasy tale inspired by the ancient myths about Hercules and Jason & the Argonauts. It stars former bodybuilder Steve Reeves as Hercules in what might have been a very dull b-movie indeed. However, it’s surprisingly good. The production values are excellent. The dubbed dialogue is well-written and well-read, and all the actors do a splendid job. The movie spawned nearly 20 other similar fantasy adventures involving Hercules, though only a few of them featured Steve Reeves. This, the first one, is quite likely the best of them all, and well worth watching.

A Bucket of Blood 1959
An awkward young man inadvertently kills a cat. He hides the dead cat by covering it in clay, which immediately becomes hailed as a masterpiece of sculpture (though no one knows there’s a dead cat inside). He becomes the talk of the town, thus rising quickly from a nobody to a somebody. In order to keep his newly-found success, and create further pieces of art, he must also continue killing. The movie was made by Roger Corman. It’s filled with dark humour, great camera work and a splendid musical score by jazz-composer Fred Katz. Even though the movie drags a little bit here and there, it’s well worth the watch.

The Phantom Planet 1961
This one’s about an astronaut who lands on an asteroid. There he encounters a race of very tiny people. He himself becomes minituarised and comes to learn a lot about the little people and their life on the asteroid. There’s also a duel, a little romance, a vicious monster, and a battle with other space aliens. It has good dialogue, and is quite well made, disregading some ruddy special effects a la Classic Dr Who, incl. the obligatory man in a rubber suit. I liked this one a lot.

This Is Not A Test 1962
This feels almost like an early American version of the 1970s Survivors TV series. It’s about a bunch of people who are stopped by a lone police officer at a road block in the middle of nowhere. At first they aren’t told why, and the police officer doesn’t seem to know himself. He simply follows orders he receives over the radio. To their horror, it transpires after a while that there’s an impending nuclear attack. Apparently the US is being attacked by someone, presumably the Soviet. The roadblocked people have to fend for themselves and try to avoid being perished in the forthcoming nuclear blast. It’s very dark and atmospheric. Despite the occasional dull acting, it’s brilliant and has a stellar ending.

Charade 1963
Besides being a delightful romantic comedy, this film is also a solid twist-turning suspense thriller, indeed one of the best. Audrey Hepburn is fantastic in it (as if she could be anything else!) and Cary Grant does a very good "Is he good? Is he bad?" kind of guy. The main villains are funny as well as menacing. The plot and the twists are well played out, as is the climax of the film. There’s also a hilariously funny funeral scene. The movie is a real joy to watch, from beginning to end.

The Strangler 1964
In this, Victor Buono plays a lonely man fascinated by dolls and domineered by his ill mother. In-between visits with his mother, he stalks and strangles random women that anger him, while the police try desperately to catch him. The movie is apparently based on the infamous Boston Strangler. It’s very good, suspenseful and quite creepy (esp. Buono’s portrayal of the strangler). Comes highly recommended.

Bloody Pit of Horror 1965
What can I say. This horrible, horrible movie is about a bunch of people who find themselves stranded in a castle. They get killed off one by one by a crazy man in a mask. One woman is killed in a huge spider web, while others perish in a torture chamber of some sort. It’s not a movie I’ll watch again. Nor would I want to recommend it to anyone. The acting is awful, the dialogue is awful, the whole plot is awful. The sets are nice, though.

Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet 1965
This is about a space mission to Venus. The rocket crash lands, and the crew must be rescued by another rocket already in orbit, but not before they explore the planet during which they encounter various troubles. The movie ends somewhat mysteriously without offering any proper answers, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The movie is actually quite watchable, though hardly a masterpiece. The American voice-overs (the film is dubbed) are monotone and uninspiring, but with the dull colour palette of the whole movie, perhaps this was intentional

(The movie is credited to one Harrington, but he’s only responsible for some parts of the film. It began its life in 1962 already, when a Russian movie maker named Klushantsev filmed a sci-fi adventure titled Planeta Bur. Harrington took/stole the Russian footage, added American voices in place of the Russian ones, and shot some extra scenes featuring, for instance, Basil Rathbone. Thus a "new", American film was created. A few years later, Bogdanovich did to Harrington’s movie what Harrington had done to Klushantsev’s movie. That is, he took Harrington’s version, cut away Harrington’s footage, added his own scenes, edited it a bit, and released it with a new title, Voyage to the planet of the prehistoric women; see next entry below.)

Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women 1968
This is Bogdanovitch’s version of the Russian Planeta Bur, originally filmed in 1962 by Klushantsev (see entry above). Bogdanovich deleted all of Harrington’s footage, and replaced it with some of his own, most/all of which involve a group of tighly-dressed young, beautiful women acting as antagonists to the stranded astronauts. Bogdanovich kept the dull voice-overs, however, so the dubbed lines here are as bad as they are in Harrington’s version. Nonetheless, the plot comes of as slightly better here, and differs considerably from the previous versions. The astronauts crash land on Venus, encountering barren lands, bad weather and monsters. They eventually find a statue and realise there might be a higher civilisation there somewhere, which there also is, and this is where Bogdanovich’s footage comes in. The Venusians turn out to be long-haired mermaids with telepatic powers and both legs intact. It sounds corny, I admit, but it plays out really well. It certainly isn’t as bad as it sounds. It has a dark and somber atmosphere that’s rather appealing in fact.

Night of the Living Dead 1968
This is George Romero’s classic, original zombie movie. Due to some form of cosmic radiation, corpses rise up and start walking the earth as zombies, and they feel peckish for some human flesh. A terrified group of strangers find themselves locked inside a small house, where they fight of the zombie attacks. However, dangers lurk inside the house, too. This is still one of the best zombie movies ever made, and it’s quite amazing to find it in the public domain. It’s a definite must-see.

The Incredible 2-Headed Transplant 1971
This is a horribly boring sci-fi adventure starring Bruce Dern. Not even he could save this fiasco of a film. He plays a scientist who transplants the head of maniacal murderer onto the body of a half-wit, thus creating a two-headed evil creature, which naturally goes on the rampage. It’s terribly dull and boring. Watching this mess is a complete waste of time.

Horror Express 1972
Christopher Lee plays an anthropologist who digs up the remains of what he believes to be the missing link (between man and ape). He takes the excavated creature onto a train, where he is accompanied by Peter Cushing. As could be expected, the creature turns out to be alive, runs loose on the train, and it all becomes very menacing when it also turns out that the creature can kill simply by gazing straight into a victims eyes. There’s very little not to like in this movie. The plot is well paced and consistent. It has great acting and well-delivered dialogue from a variety of charismatic actors. The music score is lovely. The sets are beautiful and the atmosphere is claustrophobic. There’s not a single moment of dullness in the entire movie.

Dead People / Messiah of Evil 1973
This movie starts with a young woman arriving at a distant town in search of her father, who seems to have gone missing. No one in the little town appears to know anything, or else they’re just unwilling to tell. The first 15 minutes feel a bit disjointed, but then it picks up, and becomes a real joy to watch. It turns out to be a zombie movie. Well, sort of. The zombies don’t actually behave like traditional Romero-zombies. Instead they seem to be some sort of werewolf-zombie combinations. They growl, they have teeth and they jump around. There are two really cool death-scenes in it. One occurs in a supermarket, the other in a cinema. Nicely staged, scored, acted and brilliantly shot. These scenes could easily have become classics had they appeared in a more well-known movie. In fact, I’d never heard of this movie before, which surprised me a lot, as it’s quite good (as far as b-movies go).

Invasion of the Bee Girls 1973
The movie starts with some mysterious deaths. It turns out that men die in love-making sessions, and we later find out that the women they make love to hizz and turn into killer bees. Yes, it’s just as bad as it sounds, except we do get to see a lot of naked breasts (if you like that sort of thing). The acting, especially from the female lead, is annoyingly bad, and the dialogue is abysmal.

Lady Frankenstein 1974
Baron Frankenstein (played by Joseph Cotten, no less) is keen to give life to corpses. In fact, he has devoted his entire adult life to that very aim. It turns out he has a daughter who shares his interests, and when the Baron is killed by one of his own creations, his daughter decides to continue her father’s work. It sounds a little dull, to be honest, but for some odd reason I found myself enjoying this quite a bit. There’s a nice atmosphere to it, and the actors are all very charismatic. The dialogue isn’t too dull either.

Naked Massacre / Born in Hell 1976
This is about a war-torn soldier killing a house full of nurses. It has a very eerie atmosphere, and while it’s watchable, it isn’t very good. I don’t think I’ll watch it again.

Star Wreck: In the Pirkinning 2005
This is one of the oddest films ever made. It’s a Finnish sci-fi adventure, parodying both Star Trek and Babylon 5. It centers around a space crew stranded on Earth, led by Capt. Pirk. After a while, they manage to build a new spaceship, the CPP Kickstart, and begin a quest to conquer the Universe. The movie was made with a very small budget, apparently, but that doesn’t show. It looks and feels like a big-budget movie rich with CGI. The dialogue is entirely in Finnish, so unfortunately many of the word plays are lost in the English subtitles. That notwithstanding, it is one of the funniest films I have seen in a long long time, and a definite must-see for all sci-fi fans.

A tidal wave of bananas, magnets and other miracles

This is just too hilarious to ignore. Bill O’Reilly, an American TV talk show host on the Fox News Channel, has recently offered an argument for the existence of God:

I’ll tell you why [religion]’s not a scam, in my opinion. Tide goes in, tide goes out. Never a miscommunication. You can’t explain that. You can’t explain why the tide goes in.

Well, there you have it. Shapely bananas, f*cking magnets and inexplicable tidal waves. Ours is a world full of miracles indeed.

How many countries are there in Africa?

The UN membership roster contains 54 African states, and that of the African Union contains 53. While the AU list includes suspended members, it does not include a count for Morocco, who has decided to stay out of the AU. Thus AU’s implied total can also be said to be 54. Of these, 48 states are found on the actual continent, while 6 are island nations.

However, Africa is about to get a brand new country. Within less than two weeks, South Sudan will hold a referendum on whether or not to secede from the rest of Sudan. If it does secede, which currently seems likely, it would mean that the new total will soon be 55, right? Well, no, because the current total of 54 is true only to some degree.

Before I go on: what’s a country, anyway? I’m going to be somewhat untechnical here and use ‘country’, ‘nation’ and ‘state’ pretty much interchangeably. More precisely, I’ll count as a country any defined territory with a sovereign and accepted (or at least obeyed) government/leadership, a seemingly stable and functioning governing infrastructure, plus a set of recognised and enforced laws by which the territory is governed.

So how many are there, then?

53 or 54 = official totals

For a long time, the standard answer has been either 53 or 54, depending on whether one counts the Sahrawi Republic or West Sahara as a country or not. The Sahrawi Republic was briefly independent in the 1970s, but has since then been controlled by Morocco, who currently occupies roughly three quarters of the entire Sahrawian territory. There have been negotiations and plans for either full independence (demanded by the Sahrawi leadership) or merely some degree of autonomy (the Moroccan standpoint). But nothing seems to be happening. Nonetheless, the Sahrawi Republic is recognised as a country by many other countries, as well as the UN and the AU, both of whom have accepted the Sahrawi Republic as a member state (which, incidentally, is also the reason why Morocco refuses to be a member of the AU).

Either way, the current official total of 54 (or 53 if you’re Morocco) is not the full story, irrespective of how one counts Sahrawi. Both numbers have in fact been obsolete for many years due to the break-up of Somalia in the 1990s.

56 (or 57) = another total

As has been widely reported in news bulletins for several years now, Somalia broke up during the 1990s. Yet most international bodies, such as the UN and the AU, still regard and count Somalia as a single country, with its recognised successor being the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia seated at Mogadishu.

However, the Transitional Federal Government governs only small parts of what used to be Somalia. Other parts of the territory are controlled by others, such as Somaliland and Puntland, two unrecognised countries with fully functioning governments and administrations. In most respects, they look very much like regular countries, except they lack international recognition. Nonetheless, there is no reason not to count Somaliland and Puntland as de facto countries, since they act as sovereign polities independently of the Transitional Federal Government. Other putative states have either dissolved (as did the Northland State), been overtaken by others (e.g. Maakhir overtaken by Puntland and Jubaland overtaken by al-Shabaab; see below), or have recognised the authority of the Transitional Federal Government (as has Galmudug).

As the fight for some areas is still ongoing, it is difficult to make a reasoned assessment about the entire territory of former Somalia, let alone its future. This concerns in particular the southern parts, an area that is currently controlled by al-Shabaab, an organisation or movement labelled “terrorists” by some Western analysts. While Somaliland and Puntland can be counted as de facto sovereign countries, the al-Shabaab-controlled territory appears less like a functioning country. Be that as it may, the area is at least independently ruled, even though the political infrastructure seems less clear and formalised than we’d normally expect of a country. Still, I suppose it could potentially be counted as a “country” (of some sort) bringing the total to a possible 57.

57 (or 58) = current de facto total

As mentioned above, the current total, whatever one considers it to be, will soon be added with a new member, namely, South Sudan. At the moment, South Sudan has the same status as Somaliland and Puntland. That is, it is a sovereign territory with its own government and administration, albeit lacking proper international recognition. So even if it were not to achieve independence, we could still count it as a de facto African country.

Hence with South Sudan, be it recognised or not, we reach a total of 57 de facto African countries (or 58 if al-Shabaab were to be included).

63 (or even 64) = other potential totals

To most of the totals above, we could potentially add another six, namely, Spain, France, the UK, Portugal, Malta, and Yemen. Each of these countries rule over territories that lie on the African Tectonic Plate.

Spain controls Spanish North Africa and the Canary Islands. Spanish North Africa is the only European-controlled area on the mainland of Africa and consists of the cities Ceuta and Melilla, plus a scattering of tiny islands just outside the Moroccan coast. The areas have been claimed by Morocco, but Spain has persistently refused. France controls Réunion, Mayotte and a small number of uninhabited islands around Madagascar. The UK controls the island territories of St Helena, Ascension & Tristan da Cunha. Portugal controls Madeira, with surrounding small(er) islands. Yemen controls Soqotra, an island just outside the Horn of Africa. And finally, the entire country of Malta lies on the African Plate, even though by tradition it is and has been counted as European.

The territories in question are all governed independently of (other) African countries. They are demarkated on maps by (inter)national borders. However, the governments that rule them are seated outside Africa, either Europe (Spain, France, UK, Portugal, Malta) or Asia (Yemen). Still, the respective territories are geographically African, and therefore the countries that rule them could be counted as African. Were we to do so, the total would run up to 63 (or 64 with al-Shabaab).

Summary

In sum, then, the current total of de facto African countries is at least 57, which includes the unproblematic 53 plus Sahrawi, Somaliland, Puntland, and South Sudan. Of these, Sahrawi enjoyes international recognition and South Sudan is likely to do so soon. The total of 57 could potentially be boosted to 58 if we were to regard the al-Shabaab-controlled areas as constituting a country.

To either of these two totals, we can then make six further additions consisting of areas controlled by non-African governments, giving us a potential grand total of either 63 or 64.

  recognised: 54 = The Official 54, incl. 48 mainland and 6 island nations
  de facto: 57 = The Official 54 plus South Sudan, Somaliland, Puntland
      ( 58 if al-Shabaab is included )
  potential: 63 = The above 57 plus Spain, France, the UK, Portugal, Malta, Yemen
      ( 64 if al-Shabaab is included )

Personally, I’m going with 57.

 

Superheroes aren’t what they used to be

According to The Connexion:

A MAN dressed as Superman has died after falling from a fourth-floor balcony in Paris …

Meanwhile, France’s ‘Spider-man’ Alain Robert has been arrested in Sydney after climbing the 151m Lumiere Building.

And according to the National Post, earlier this year:

Man dressed as Captain America arrested with burrito, joint in his pants

Is that a burrito in your pants or are you just happy to see me? The answer was both for one Florida man who was arrested after asking women at a bar to touch a burrito that was stuffed down the pants of his Captain America costume.

Doctor Raymond Adamcik, a 54-year-old family physician, was dressed as the comic book superhero while he partied with other medical professionals on a costumed pub crawl. At one bar, Adamcik asked women if they wanted to touch a burrito that he had tucked into the waistband of his blue tights. When one woman refused, he groped her …

Out of the superhero lineup, the woman fingered Adamcik…

Now that’s a lineup I’d like to have seen.

Search engines, recalls and ratios

Just for fun, I tried three separate search engines, AltaVista, Google and Lycos, to see how their recalls differ. I chose those three since Wikipedia indicates that they index and search the interwebs independently of each other. (The figures below seem to substantiate this.)

I’m not interested in actual number of hits, but rather in ratios. Hence I searched for words in pairs (one word, two spellings) such as "keyboard" vs "kyeboard" (the latter being a typo), "occurring" vs "occuring" (common misspelling), "organisation" vs "organization" (variant spelling), and a handful others.

Ideally such recalls should tell me how much more common one construction is compared to another. As long as the indexing of the interwebs is comprehensive and/or sufficiently random, then each search engine should give me roughly equal ratios irrespective of the actual number of hits involved. However, the figures below indicate something different.

TYPOS &
MISSPELLINGS
  keyboard kyeboard Ratio  
AltaVista 483,000,000 23,000 21,000:1
Lycos 26,162,417 1,158 22,593:1
Google 91,000,000 30,300 3003:1 ⬅ more
  occurring occuring Ratio  
AltaVista 149,000,000 12,400,000 12:1
Lycos 8,235,538 675,116 12:1
Google 45,500,000 14,400,000 3:1 ⬅ more
  episode epsiode Ratio  
AltaVista 844,000,000 1,360,000 621:1
Lycos 45,426,313 53,927 842:1
Google 397,000,000 306,000 1,297:1 ⬅ less
VARIANT
SPELLINGS
& FORMS
  organization organisation Ratio  
AltaVista 1,620,000,000 811,000,000 2.0:1
Lycos 467,042,950 45,292,899 10.3:1 ⬅ less
Google 248,000,000 142,000,000 1.8:1
  isn’t ain’t Ratio  
AltaVista 368,000,000 82,900,000 4.5:1
Lycos 80,699,040 13,814,999 5.8:1 ⬅ less
Google 223,000,000 52,500,000 4.2:1
  "he isn’t" "he ain’t" Ratio  
AltaVista 298,000 97,000 3.1:1 ⬅ more
Lycos 1,912,390 306,715 6.2:1 ⬅ less
Google 5,090,000 11,900,000 1:2.3 ⬅ !!!
  "than I" "than me" Ratio  
AltaVista 216,000,000 69,000,000 3.1:1
Lycos 11,704,123 3,402,830 3.4:1
Google 54,700,000 15,300,000 3.6:1

Taken at face value, it would appear that Google disagrees with the other two search engines when it comes to typos and misspellings, although the disagreement does not appear to be consistently in any one direction. When it comes to variant spellings and forms, there seem to be no general tendencies. In one case ("than I" vs "than me"), they all agree, in another ("he isn’t" vs "he ain’t"), they all disagree. In the other two cases, AltaVista and Google agree, while Lycos does not.

To be honest, I’m not entirely sure what this means. The fact that the differences are there ought to raise some alarm bells before trusting any figures provided by any of the search engines. Perhaps there’s a simple technical reason for all this. Idiosyncratic roundings off? Invisible spell-checkers? Biases indexing of the web? Biased recall procedures? Unfortunately, I’m too ignorant about how exactly search engines work. One thing is clear, however. Different search engines do it differently, which leads to the obvious question: should we trust any of them?

A corpus like COCA (i.e. Corpus of Contemporary American English) is more tailor-made for linguistics, and is therefore also more suited for linguistic queries. On the other hand, COCA doesn’t give us all aspects of actual language usage. The written-language part of the corpus contains texts drawn from published sources, and is thus composed of edited texts in which typos and non-standard usages have been weeded out. Typos like "epsiode" and "kyeboard", for instance, give no hits at all in COCA, while the “than I”/”than me” ratio is 6.5:1 in COCA (compared to the roughly 3.5:1 in the tables above).

Search engines like AltaVista, Google, Lycos, and others, index and search people’s unedited language usage out there "in the wild", warts, typos and all. Therefore their recalls should be more representative of actual usage. The trouble is, they give different results, as the above little excercise demonstrates.

At any rate, this isn’t a very comprehensive survey, being based on only a few searches. All I know at this point is that one obviously needs to be very cautious about interpreting numbers extracted from search engines. Most people seem to trust results offered by Google without even blinking. Indeed, many people use nothing *but* Google. Admittedly I do, too, normally. We might want to re-think our faith in Google. I know I will.

Nicknames for IPA symbols

A recent blog post by John Wells, which discusses transcriptions of toddler-speech and also mentions so-called phonetic alphabets, made me remember that I once created a phonetic alphabet for the symbols in the IPA (International Phonetic Association) alphabet.

Although I’ve used it largely for my own benefit, it could potentially be useful to anyone who wants to spell out phonetic transcriptions without resorting to cumbersome and complex phonetic descriptions. The full table, with all the nicknames, can be downloaded as a PDF from here. It’s been updated and revised a few times over the years.

Most of the names are arbitrary, though not entirely un-motivated. For instance, ƀ is named barbie, which is a contraction of barred b, while đ is named bardy, a shortening of barred d.

Some names derive from IPA’s own pamphlet, The principles of the International Phonetic Association, 1949. For instance, the ɮ symbol is named dhla simply because in the IPA pamphlet that particular symbol is exemplified with the Zulu word dhla, in which the sound represented by that symbol is said to occur.

Other names derive from a symbol’s graphic features. For instance, ɰ is named ham because it looks like a combination of lower-case H and M, though upside-down. Thus H+M ≈ ham. Perhaps I was hungry when I made that connection.

Anywho, as far as I know, no such or similar "phonetic alphabet" exist for the symbols of the IPA. Maybe phoneticians don’t need one? Or else they resort to all kinds of ad-hoc and impromptu solutions. Either way, here‘s one they can use should they need one.

What’s wrong with bad language?

(Here’s a bit of a post-Christmas rant. Sorry for the length!)

Complaints like the following are not uncommon on the internet and elsewhere:

— “Why can’t people write/speak Proper English?”
— “Write proper English if you want others to understand you!”
— “People who don’t use Proper English are lazy, stupid, or both.”
— “English is ruined by sloppy pronunciation and bad grammar!”

Taken at face value, complaints like the above seem perfectly reasonable. If you want to get a message through, then you need to communicate in a way that is understood. What could be more reasonable than that? There are a few underlying assumptions here that need a fair bit of consideration before we can address that issue. For instance, what exactly is Proper English? And by implication, what is Improper English? But let us start with a few basics.

Spoken vs written language

We normally communicate by either speaking or writing. Speech is our primary mode of communication. We learnt to speak before we learnt to read/write, both as individuals and as a species. Without speech there would be no writing. The reverse is not true.

Speech and writing are separate, albeit related, code systems. Even though there is a considerable overlap in lexicon and grammar, they nonetheless function according to their own separate sets of rules and constraints. Hence we need to keep them clearly separated.

In speech, for instance, we have a whole range of extra-linguistic phenomena that help us interpret what people say, such as intonation, stress, loudness, mimicry, body posture, finger pointing, and so on. Even the clothes a speaker wears and the dirt under his/her finger nails can be used as clues when decoding a message. In a written text, all those speech-typical signals are lacking. On the other hand, written texts have their own distinguishing features, e.g. font type, text formatting (such as bold-print, italics, underlining, font colour, etc.), paragraph organisation, headlines, info boxes, illustrations, paper quality, and so on and so forth. In short, spoken and written messages are constructed differently, and consequently we also decode them differently.

However, there are differences also where you might hypothetically expect similatities. For instance, the spelling of English does not match the pronunciation. Hence while there are 6 letters signifying vowels in written English (a, e, i, o, u, y), there are more than 10 actual vowel sounds (excl. diphthongs) in any variety of spoken English. Some spelling/pronunciation mismatches are archaisms, testifying to old pronunciations. This does not, however, mean that they are not functional or useful. While the written words right/write/rite are kept apart in writing, they are pronounced identically in most forms of English. This actually makes reading easier. Since the words are visually distinct, they are not likely to be confused and thus their meanings are quicker to access. Moreover, the different spellings maintain a visual consistency among a set of related words, in this case write/wrote/written (all contain wr-t) and rite/ritual (both contain rit). Compare also anxious and anxiety which are pronounced something like angkshious and angziety, respectively, but are kept visually related by their anx-parts. This maintains a consistency on the word/grammar level at the expense of congruency on the spelling/pronunciation level. It’s an unavoidable trade-off, but very useful for readers.

Vocabulary and grammar differ between written and spoken language. We commonly use more elaborate sentence constructions in writing than we do in speech, and while we write £5, we use a different word order in speech, namely five pounds (instead of pounds five).

Speech is immediate and momentary, while writing is planned and lasting. We make up, edit and correct our spoken utterances on the spot, while the listener is hearing them. Written messages are often edited and revised before they are read by their intended recipients. Hence readers of written texts are less likely to witness any corrections and edits. In speech, however, these occur naturally during the actual communication. Thus it is only normal to expect more errors and mistakes in speech. This has to be taken into account when evaluating either speech or writing.

Change and variation is natural and ever-present

Human languages are heterogenous and they constantly change. In fact, languages are in constant flux. They display variation in both time and space. They always have and they always will. It is a necessary property of any living language. When a language ceases to change, it dies. It becomes non-functional and no longer serves the purpose as a useful tool of communication.

Language cannot be a closed and rigid system of rules for a variety of reasons. It has to be adaptable and flexible, simply because we need to be able to talk about new things, or even old things in new ways. Such things as metaphors, similes, analogies, sarcasms, and so on, constantly change and enrich our languages with new forms and new constructions. This is what poets and authors do all the time. Well, at least the interesting ones. But it’s not only poets who do it. Other people do it, too. Some people do it more deliberately and innovatively than others, but we all do it to some extent; perhaps not with as impressive results as Shakespeare did, but still, we do it.

It is not only the use of words and phrases that change. Every aspect of language changes, pronunciation and grammar included. The reasons can be many, ranging from the biological/physiological workings of our speech apparatus to intentional idiosyncracies used to mark one’s own identity or make a joke. Some are due to errors and mistakes, no doubt. But whatever their reasons, some of them catch on and spread, either because they are considered more prestigious (e.g. if a famous person uses it), or because they are felt as better in some way (e.g. when the shorter mobile is used instead of the compound mobile phone). Clearly we cannot dismiss changes in principle. They happen, sometimes for reasons known to us, but most commonly for reasons that are unknown. This, of course, leaves the field open for people to make up all kinds of speculative and bizarre reasons, such as “laziness” and “stupidity”.

Different individuals do have different language skills, habits and preferences. I know a different set of words than you do. I’m comfortable with a different way of expressing myself than you. These differences exist, but such differences do not unproblematically translate into values of good or bad.

More than just messages

Language is not only used to convey messages. With language, we also signal our identities and group belongings. This is an important function of language, especially spoken language. We imitate those we want to identify with. With language, we create boundaries to other people who do not speak like us, or towards people we do not want to sound like, for whatever reasons. For instance, kids do not want to sound like their grand-parents. Nor do grand-parents want to sound like thirteen-year olds. Scots do not want to sound like Londoners, and vice-versa. Middle class people do not want to sound like chavs. Hence they make sure they don’t speak like them. In their opinion, they of course speak “proper” English while the so-called chavs speak “bad” English.

This segregating function of language exists in all speech communities, and the causes are largely social. People naturally form groups, both temporary and long-lasting ones, large and small. It can be professional groups like lawyers, electricians, clergy, etc., or it can be social groups like family circles, chess clubs, buddies, street gangs, and so on. These groups create and maintain in-group specific behaviours, be it dress codes, hand shakes, in-jokes, whatever, incl. particular linguistic behaviours such as specific forms of salutations and other fixed phrases, common technical terminology, peculiar pronunciations of certain words, and whatever else. These in-group peculiarities, furthermore, are part of what defines any given group. They reinforce the group’s identity and signal that identity towards outsiders.

What, who, how, where and when?

We constantly adapt our language use according to a variety of factors, such as what we say (the topic), to whom we are saying it (the intended receiver), how we say it (the medium), as well as when and where we say it (the context/milieu). For instance, if there is a lot of background noise we may chose to scream. If there’s a lot of other people around, we may instead chose to whisper. We speak differently to our loved ones than we do to our bosses. When we communicate we usually do so with an intended audience in mind. It can be a single individual (e.g. in face-to-face dialogues) or it can be a large non-specific mass of people (e.g. when giving a national speech on radio). Thus we adjust our speech accordingly. That’s why “Sup?” is a perfectly valid formulation in one context, while “How do you do?” might be considered better in another. This is also the reason why there is no one single correct way of communicating. There are in fact innumerable correct ways.

Sometimes one can hear complaints from adults who have overheard adolescents speak unintelligble English on a bus, or some other public place. This kind of complaint has little rational basis to it. The needs for successful communication have evidently been adequately met, as they obviously understand each other. They have no intention, nor any obligation, to make themselves understood by outsiders. Their use of “unintelligble” language is no indication that the adolescents in question cannot speak “proper” English. In all likelihood, they can. They are simply sensitive to the fact that they are intending their communication for each other, not those around them. Their choice of language behaviour signals “This is who we are” and “This conversation is not meant for you but my mate(s)”.

Standard English

When people talk about Proper English, it is usually some form of written English they mean. In particular, they imply the kind of English tought in schools, and which is commonly referred to as Standard English or Queen’s English.

Sometimes you hear people say things like “Common rules (of Standard English) are necessary to secure good communication”. However, this is looking at it the wrong way around. It is our need to communicate that has created and continues to maintain whatever rules there are. Some of these rules (generalisations) have been “discovered” by scholars and subsequentlty printed in books (grammars), which others then have come to treat as indisputable dogma. It is important to remember here that writers sometimes get it wrong, and not every stipulated grammar rule is a valid rule. Nor can a grammar ever be complete. And because languages constantly change and adapt, every published grammar is instantly obsolete. Think of a grammar as a photograph capturing a single moment in time. And not only that, no matter how much of the landscape it captures, there will always be something outside the frame, or beyond the horizon.

Standard English is not a natural language. It is an artificial construct existing only in written form. Even though it is a written language, many people try to emulate it in their speech, especially in formal situations. It is not the case that dialectal forms of English are deviations or even variations of Standard English. If anything, it is the other way round. Standard English is to spoken English dialects as the poodle is to wild dog species. More specifically, Standard English is an artificial variation of Midlands-based dialects, just like the poodle is an artificially created variation of a once-domesticated wolf. What we today recognise as Standard English has been deliberately engineered and promoted by the social and academic elite over the past 500 years or so.

It is some idealised form of this artificial, written Standard English that people usually have in mind when they complain about other people’s Englishes, be they written or spoken. And this is the basis of their irrationality. Everyday English is not the same as Standard English, nor should it be, and anyone expecting it to be is by definition wrong, even foolish.

So what are people complaining about?

There are seemingly no limits to what people can complain about when it comes to language. However, some complaints have been repeated so often that they have become unquestioned clichés rather than observations based on any rational thinking. The ironic thing is that many of the things that “language snobs” complain about aren’t even errors to begin with. Their complaints have been refuted many times by linguists, but the internet in particular is ripe with the same age-old complaints, including such dear things as split infinitives, double negations, the word “like”, saying bigger than me instead of bigger than I, writing could of instead of could have, and many others. Let’s have a look at some of these.

Split infinitives

Complaining about split infinitives seems to be a favourite. However, there is nothing wrong with them. They are fully permissible by English grammar, and they have been used by many generations of speakers and writers. Sometimes sentences become more clear with split infinitives than without them. Compare the following three versions:
 — He prepared silently to accompany her
 — He prepared to silently accompany her
 — He prepared to accompany her silently
In the first sentence, silently modifies prepared. In the second, it modifes accompany. The third sentence is ambiguous. If you want to make it clear that it is the accompanying that is done silently, instead of the preparation, then you chose the second sentence, the one with the split infinitive. That is not grammatically flawed. It is stylistically good.

Double negations

Double negations is another favourite gripe among language snobs. They are sometimes claimed to cancel each other out. Thus He didn’t say nothing can allegedly be misinterpreted as He said something. This is just plain wrong. No one is likely to construe such a meaning unless they intentionally try to. The double negation is indeed redundantly marked (i.e. it is pleonastic), but this is quite a common phenomenon in languages. It can be used for emphasis or simply to make sure that the negation is heard. This is valuable in speech if not in writing. There is certainly nothing ungrammatical about it. There are even constructions in which we expect double negations to occur, as in neither … nor, in which negation is doubly (redundantly) marked.

It is even possible to argue that those who use double negations are more attuned to communicative needs than those who don’t use them. In Old English, the common negative structure was something like ic ne lufie (lit. I not love). The negative particle ne was frequently destressed in speech, for which reason it was strengthened with another negation marker, noht (nothing), giving rise to the Middle English construction ic ne seye not (lit. I not say nothing). This doubly-negated construction ensured that the negation wasn’t lost in transmission. (When the original negation ne later disappeared altogether, the newer negation, noht, was brought forward with the help of the auxiliary do giving rise to the Modern English construction I do not know.) In modern times, we see the same process happening again. Negative particles are frequently destressed in constructions like I don’t have it, as opposed to I do not have it. This creates a natural need to strengthen the destressed negation with an additional negation, as in I don’t have nothing. Thus the second negation is not there to cancel the first one out. It’s there to make sure the negation is heard. That’s not being ungrammatical or unidiomatic. It’s being sensitive to communicative needs.

(As a side-note, there are cases where we use double negations with the seemingly intended purpose of having them cancel each other out. But this seems to be possible only when the negations apply to the same word, as in not uncommon, in which the negations are not and un-. However, in such cases the resulting semantics does not equal the simple positive root, in this case common, so that semantically speaking, there is more going on here than a mere cancelling out.)

I or me

Whether to use me or I after than depends on how one interprets than. Is it a conjunction or a preposition? Both interpretations are permissible in English. Many words can function as both prepositions and conjunctions. In a somewhat simplified way, you can say that it depends on what comes afterwards. Is it a noun phrase or is it a verb phrase? In he did it before me, before is a preposition since what follows is a single pronoun. In he did it before I did, it is a conjunction since what follows is a verb phrase. This double-functionality is an integral part of English grammar (spoken as well as written), and there is nothing wrong with it. Hence he is bigger than me (preposition) is just as correct as he is bigger than I am (conjunction).

The curse of the Bishop

As already indicated, the above-mentioned complaints aren’t valid complaints at all. They have nonetheless been prevalent complaints for many generations, despite having been refuted many many times. They seem to originate from a set of (pseudo)rules established by Bishop Lowth in an influential book on English grammar which he published in 1762. They are likely based on Bishop Lowth’s own, idiosyncratic aversions against other people’s English which just happened to differ from his own. Due to his social prestige and position in the church, his opinions came to be propagated by generations of English teachers, who are no doubt well-meaning, but misguided and wrong nonetheless.

Words like like

A more recent annoyance is directed towards the use of like in phrases such as it’s only, like, an hour and he was, like, stupid or something. There seems to be no end to the stigma attached to those who use like like this. Needless to say, their complaints are emotional rather than rational. The word like is multifunctional in most people’s English. It can appear as a verb, as in I like it, an adjective, of like mind, a conjunction, he eats like there is no tomorrow, or a preposition, she walks like a duck. For many people, these (and perhaps a handful others) are the only accepted uses of like. Like in so many other cases, this, too, rests on the misapplication of ideal written standards to the spoken language. In spoken English, like has a further function seldom noted by grammar books (which are based on written language). It can also be a so-called discourse particle/marker, a functional category found in all languages. Indeed, discourse particles form an important and seemingly essential part of any spoken language. In English, words and phrases like like, well, I mean, you know, as well as others, can all be used as discourse particles fulfilling a variety of important functions. For instance, like can be used as an approximation marker, as in it was, like, two hours ago (emphasising that something is an estimate), mitigation marker, he was, like, stupid (lessening the impact of the accusation of being stupid), quotation marker, e.g. so he was like, “Ooh, my brain hurts” (framing reported speech, i.e. signalling that something is being quoted), as well as other things. Discourse particles are seldom, if ever, meaningless ticks. They only appear superfluous and meaningless to those whose ideal language is some form of Standard Written English and/or to those who don’t pay attention to what those little particles actually do.

Could of

A frequently ridiculed construction in written English, especially on the internet, is the use of of where you would normally expect a have, as in must of, should of, etc. Worth noting is that this particular mistake is always self-correcting, so even though it can be construed as a grammatical error, it does not create any confusion with regard to the message conveyed. However, it is also worth noting that it is not the grave error many people think it is. The grammatical template Auxiliary Verb + Preposition + Main Verb is already acceptable in English. It is used in, for instance, I ought to go home, in which ought to go is grammatically analoguos to should of done, i.e. Auxiliary + Preposition + Main Verb. There are even hints of a consistent division of labour here. While to is followed by infinitive forms, of is followed past participle forms. There is clearly more at play here than it being a simple error.

Commonly mixed homophones

Other oft-noted mistakes/errors concern the mixing of it’s/its, they’re/their/there, we’re/were/where, you’re/your, hear/here, and others. Admittedly, these are genuine errors, but they are always self-correcting. It is very difficult to come up with contexts where they’d create any serious misunderstadings. They may be eye-catching, but can hardly be considered detrimental to communication as such. Some might even argue that since they aren’t distinguished in speech at all, being pronounced identically, we might as well dispense with the distinctions entirely and use a single form for each.

Language is self-regulating and optimal

Any given speech community will always regulate its language behaviour so as to be an optimal tool designed for easy flow of information (make yourself understood within your group) as well as a tool for signalling an individual speaker’s identity (tell your surrounding who you are and who you are not). The need to succesfully convey messages favours similarities and common rules, while the need to mark one’s identity favours differences and idiosyncracies.

Since language is also context-dependent (who says what to whom, how, when and where), what counts as optimal varies from situation to situation. Sometimes being only able to haggle over prices at a flea market is enough to qualify as functionally optimal. Sometimes it’s enough only to be able to hurl insults across a border. In other situations, such as parliamentary debates or when romancing a loved one, more elaborate language behaviour is called for. The situation, the participants and their individual motives dictate how communication occurs and what forms it takes.

The point here is that many factors have to be taken into account when assessing what is or is not appropriate and/or functional language. Using the sole reference frame of Standard (Written) English simply won’t do. It’s deeply ignorant of what language is and how it works. When a perceived error keeps being repeated over and over again, generation after generation, then there is always more to it than it being a simple “error”. Sloppiness, lazyness and stupidity are never the answers, provided you’re interested in understanding language as opposed to merely denouncing what breaks a perceived idealised dogma.

What people use in their daily lives could do well with a lot less respect for normative standards. Correcting is completely superfluous in ordinary, everyday language use, mainly because linguistic errors are typically self-correcting, be they grammatical errors, typos or mispronunciations. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t be spotted. And when they do create genuine ambiguities, it is always better to ask for clarifications rather than trying to correct them. Communicatively speaking, that is a much more productive solution.

I think people pay way too much attention to spelling in their writing. There’s no harm whatsoever in allowing a more free and liberated spelling in ordinary language use, especially in personal letters, emails, internet forums, etc. There are admittedly some contexts where a normative spelling is preferable, and where correcting (genuine) errors is a good thing. This concerns mainly educational settings where language either is being taught as a subject or forms part of the curricular activities (e.g. essay writing). Official texts, regulations and legal contracts may also benefit from fixed spellings, but newspapers and prose publishers have hardly any reasons to abide by dogmatic spelling conventions.

Linguistic errors (real or imagined) are no more harmful to the English language, or even communication in general, than picking up the wrong fork at a fancy dinner party. That is, it may jar the (over)sensibilities of some snobs, but ultimately has no effects beyond that. To me, language snobs (prescriptivists, purists, the Grammar Police) are like extreme creationists. Instead of observing and understanding what language really is, they chose to believe in some sort of mythic ideal (Standard/Proper English) which they use as a holy dogma, especially when judging and denouncing the behaviour of other people. They then vilify whatever behaviour they perceive break the rules of their interpretation of this revered dogma.

Virtually every complaint about “bad language” is nothing more than just another stick to beat other people over the head with in order to feel superior. It is a behaviour not very different from school-yard bullies who point a finger at the kid who dresses differently or talks with a lisp. Unfortunately, many complaints (be they valid or not) seem to rest on an underlying rationale that goes something like “Yes, I can understand what you’re saying, but I don’t want to, so it’s your fault!”

That’s a shame.

SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY

Aitchison, Jean. 1991. Language change: progress or decay? 2nd edition. Cambridge University Press.
Andersson, Lars-Gunnar & Peter Trudgill. 1992. Bad language. London: Penguin Books.
Brook, G.L. 1978. English dialects. 3rd edition. London: Andre Deutsch.
Coates, Richard. 1989. A solution to the ‘must of’ problem. In: York papers in linguistics, v. 14, p. 159-167.
Crystal, David. 2008. Txtng: the gr8 db8. Oxford University Press.
D’Arcy, Alexandra. 2007. Like and language ideology: disentangling fact from fiction. In: American speech, v. 82, p. 386-419.
Foster, Brian. 1970. The changing English language. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books.
Janson, Tore. 2002. Speak: a short history of languages. Oxford University Press.
Jespersen, Otto. 1933. Essentials of English grammar. London: George Allen & Unwin.
Jespersen, Otto. 1938. Growth and structure of the English language. 9th edition. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.
Mattson, Jenny. 2009. The subtitling of discourse particles: a corpus-based study of well, you know, I mean, and like, and their Swedish translations in ten American films. PhD dissertation. University of Gothenburg. (download)
Todd, Loreto & Ian Hancock. 1990. International English usage. London: Routledge.

A FEW USEFUL WEBSITES

David Crystal’s blog
Language log
Urban dictionary
Wordspy
World Wide Words

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