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Wednesday, June 28, 2006
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
Twice during today's FIFA World Cup match between Brazil and Croatia, the commentators described star player Ronaldo Nazário de Lima as appearing "disinterested".
"Disinterested" means that he stood to gain or lose nothing from the situation and was therefore impartial and unbiased, which, for an international player representing his country live on TV around the world, seems unlikely. What they probably meant was that he appeared, to them, rather unenthusiastic, and that his attention seemed elsewhere.
Once you look it up, however, you find a more complex history. In the seventeenth century, disinterested used to mean not interested: that is, the same as uninterested. Then it developed its distinct meaning as impartial, which held for two hundred years, only faltering in the early twentieth century as people, perhaps appropriately, decided they weren't really bothered what it meant. Now it still officially means impartial, but it is so widely used in the sense of uninterested that most people probably expect that meaning, which I feel is a shame. A word for without a stake in the outcome and therefore impartial, though not a word you might need every day, is one that might occasionally be useful. Two words for not bothered are surely less useful. If you care about these things, that is.
Sunday, June 04, 2006
Perhaps nitpicking French is a new departure for me, but I could not let this pass without comment. As reported in Business Week (my emphasis):
What's next in easy-to-use business intelligence? Gartner has a concept it calls "Biggle" -- the intersection of BI and Google. The idea is that the data warehousing software will be so sophisticated that it understands when different people use different words to describe the same concepts or products. It creates an index of related information -- á là Google -- and dishes relevant results out in response to queries.
Now much as I welcome a new era of Biggling, in which super-advanced Business Intelligence software will interpret the vague mumblings of datawarehouse users and return intelligently structured trend analysis reports in a manner reminiscent of the ship's computer in Star Trek, you cannot just make up accents at random and expect them to give an authentic cosmopolitan feel to a dreary IT analysis report. "A la Google," the writer must have thought, "not bad, but it could do with a bit more Frenchifying. Hmm, 'Â lã Gøögle' I wonder? No, too Swedish..."
Perhaps an analysis company that can't even bother to research or proofread an everyday phrase like À la... does not deserve to be taken seriously.