OK, it’s crunch time. At the end of the week, you should be in Columbus, Ohio, at Ohio Linux Fest –if you’re going to a Linux show before the year’s out, make it this one. This is the last big show on the North American continent until SCALE in January. At OLF, Bradley Kuhn and Cathy Malmrose are keynoting — along with Jon “maddog” Hall — so you’ll not want to miss that (especially Cathy — Go ZaReason!).
Many of you already know this, but for those of you who don’t, I don’t do tech for a living. I’d like to it for a living, and I’m working on that. This is why you’ll find me with my nose in a book, studying for the Red Hat Certified Engineer certification test I’ll take someday (and, if I ever scrape up enough money, Red Hat classes).
What pays the bills — what I’ve done since my first day on the job at The Miami Herald on President Carter’s inauguration day (yes, I’m that old, and get off my lawn) — is newspaper work. I currently work as a copy desk editor at the Santa Cruz Sentinel, but it’s a news career that has spanned three decades, three different media (print, TV and radio) and two continents.
I am a third-generation man of letters: My father was also a newsman and his father was a mailman.
I bring this up because at the Sentinel I am known as the Grammar Hammer; a moniker which I am honored to have and one that I constantly strive to live up to. I have a three-pound sledge at my desk. I wield it with the same conviction and passion that Thor might wield his hammer, only instead of vanquishing bad Nordic guys, I’m vanquishing bad grammar and spelling.
As you might imagine, I spend a lot of time reading; more than I spend writing, as a matter of fact (isn’t that always the case?). In much of the tech realm — most in forums and comment sections — the spelling and grammar aren’t always what they should be for people who, generally speaking, are smarter than the average person (and sometimes are smarter than the things they say. But I digress . . .). In the grand scheme of things, that’s OK — I’m not really that interested in picking nits, gramatically speaking, as much as I am concerned with content.
[Note to those who speak English as a second-, third- or fourth-language. This does not apply to you, and thanks for making the huge effort to communicate in tech’s lingua franca. My hat is off to you, and thank your lucky stars you don’t have to communicate with me in Spanish or Japanese, the only other two languages in which I can communicate. I dare not say I “speak” them.]
But there are a few things that drive me up the wall and across the ceiling when it comes to grammatical and spelling morsels I see in comments and forums (and even in tech stories and blogs, albeit rarely), like:
MAC, as in Macintosh: It’s not an acronym. Mac is short for Macintosh, the product from the new evil empire based in Cupertino called Apple. It’s big-M small-a small-c. Not to be confused with MAC, as in MAC address, which is the Media Access Control address, and the MAC there should be all upper case. The next person who writes MAC to refer to the Macintosh, I’m going to come through your screen with hammer blazing.
It’s Xfce, but LXDE: With all the desktop hubbub going on, these two up-and-coming environments sometimes get mislabled. I’ve seen it XFCE and Lxde, most recently in discussions on the Felton Linux Users Group, which is going great guns in the desktop debate on the mailing list. I’ve never understood why Xfce is 75 percent lower case, but it is. LXDE, according to its site, is all upper case. Speaking of all upper case . . .
GNOME, not Gnome: This is not a GNOME 3 issue, surprisingly. A general rule of thumb is that if it’s an acronym, it’s all upper case. GNOME originally stood for GNU Network Object Model Environment, though I understand that this was so long ago in a galaxy far, far away that some want to drop the caps. I can live with “Gnome,” but on a purely grammatical stanpoint, I’ll keep capitalizing it, thank you. Besides, GNOME folks, do you really want KDE to be the only major desktop environment to be all caps? Fuel, meet fire . . . .
There are more, of course, otherwise I wouldn’t be the Linux curmudgeon that you all know and love; at least the Linux curmudgeon you all know. But you get the idea.
All of which is to say, when posting here or elsewhere, let’s be careful out there. Dot each i. Cross each t. Don’t dangle your participles.
This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy and Larry Cafiero, are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND license. In short, this license allows others to download this work and share it with others as long as they credit me as the author, but others can’t change it in any way or use it commercially.
During her visit to Budapest where she was part of the Ubuntu Developers Summit, Linux Pro’s associate publisher Rikki Kite posted this on Facebook:
“My geeky friends who pronounce ‘gnome’ as ‘ga-nome’ and ‘gnu’ as ‘ga-new’ might appreciate this -> I saw gnocchi on the buffet at UDS and said, ‘Oh, good, ga-no-kee.’ I ka-new it sounded wrong as soon as I said it.”
To which I reply to Rikki: You mean that’s not how you pronounce it?
Personally, I blame Richard Stallman. It’s an affliction that affects geeks on our side of the proverbial aisle: The “G” factor, where a normally silent letter gets pressed into phonetic service, well, for a couple of reasons. First, because it’s there (and from an engineering standpoint, why would it be there if it wasn’t going to be used?), and secondly, because we’re used to the fact that GNU and GNOME have the “g” — how can I put this? — unsilent, and we’ve been trained, or brainwashed, into putting the “g” in there where it doesn’t belong.
It’s bad enough the little guys in the garden are guh-nomes — even after the recent movie “Guh-nomeo and Juliet” — but there are other places where this arises.
For example, I had to wail and gnash — pronounced guh-nash, right? — my teeth at the various grammatical and spelling errors (not to mention the Giants blowing a four-run lead to the Dodgers) while working at the paper last night.
Surfers in the area, as well as elsewhere, consider things “gnarly” without the “g” sound; except some in Santa Cruz who also use Linux/FOSS and say “guh-narly,” dude.
To say nothing of the fact that we have no pesky gnats — yep, there’s a “g” in there, making it guh-nats — flying around in these parts, but I used to have to deal with them elsewhere.
Anyway, while there may be a cure for this, or at least a 12-step program (“I’m Larry, and I’m a G-oholic” — “Hi, Larry”), I think the better course of action would be to alert the non-geeks around you that you’re going to be using all the letters in the words you use, save for the silent “e” and the silent “k” in “kn-” words.
Ah, love! The Cure’s song that carries today’s blog title bounces gently off the walls of the office while I think about the things I love about GNU/Linux (or Linux, if you’re so inclined).
Like . . .
While writing and doing other things that come with everyday life, I came across (or actually had a hand in) the following things:
Lindependence heads north to Portland: I’ve outlined this more in the Lindependence 2008 Diary blog, but it bears repeating. Lindependence takes a trip to Portland become a different kind of Trail Blazer; that is, bringing GNU/Linux and Free/Open Source Software to northern Oregon. David Kaplan, the organizer up there for Lindependence Portland has a Web page here for the event itself, and if you’re in the area, by all means stop by. I’ll be talking more about this as time goes on, without fail.
Happy birthday to GNU: GNU leaves the 18-24 demographic behind and joins the adult world in turning 25 years old on Sept. 27. It was on that day in 1983 that Richard Stallman (who I had the honor of chauffeuring around Northern California in February) announced that he intended to create a Unix-like system that would be completely open and hackable, giving anyone the right to modify and distribute it. British comedian Stephen Fry — known to some as the comedian Dietrich in the movie “V for Vendetta” (although his oevure is far more extensive) — has made this video outlining the history of GNU and its place in the digital realm with aplomb.
Chrome dome: For the past seven hours, I’ve been using Google’s Chrome on the Wintel box at my desk at the Santa Cruz Sentinel (which I mention so this blog pops up on the Google search by my boss, Marc DesJardins — Hey, Marc!), and I have to say that it has done everything I’ve asked it too so far, except run the Stephen Fry video. What I did get was the message saying that there was an error and that the browser had to shut down. Uh oh. So long blog entry. But what happened was that Chrome actually just jettisoned the offending tab, leaving the other four intact. Very cool, Google. Here’s hoping that the Linux version of Chrome is better than the Linux version of Picasa.
Film, as they say, at 11.
(Fedora ambassador Larry Cafiero runs HeliOS Solutions West in Felton, California, and is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation.)