Archive for the ‘Observations’ Category

That’s just sic (sic)

April 19, 2015

That’s just sic (sic)

When I was going through my morning

Flipboard (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

read this morning, I have to say I was amused…or was it  appalled?   Annoyed? It was one of those “A” words, but really, I’m only good at the first one. ;) I’m going with amused…to see a quotation in a news article coming from WikiLeaks.

The quote said something about “centre (sic)”.

Now, the use of “sic” (a Latin word basically meaning “thus”, as I understand it) is usually intended to convey something like, “Hey, this is the way I found it…I didn’t make this mistake”.

That just struck me as odd in this case.

I would assume that anyone who understood the use of “sic” would also know that “centre” isn’t odd or an error…it’s the way the word is spelled in the UK (and other places), and was the “proper” spelling in the U.S.A. for a long time.

I always like to remind people that Noah Webster was really making a point in 1828. Webster wanted to separate American spellings from British spellings. That’s not to say that it was totally made up (“center” and “color” predate the dictionary), but like today’s chat speak, part of doing it for some people is to make a political or social point.

I’d really like to know why the writer of the article I was reading chose to put in that “sic”. Was it because the writer thought it was an error…or thought the readers would?

If you are a “serious reader”, as I’m sure many of you are, you may find that you spell some things differently from many of your colleagues.

For example, for me, “theatre” is the natural spelling…but right now, WordPress has put a red wavy underline under that spelling for me, to let me know it is “wrong”. :)

I’m sure I’ve been influenced by being a fan of 19th Century literature. Even when I’m reading translations from, say, Russian, they tend to be in British English more than American English…they follow Samuel Johnson rather than Noah Webster.

I’ve mentioned before that our adult kid is a linguist, and, thanks to that, I’ve come around to the idea that if the language serves its purpose, it is correct. Language often changes over time, so that what you might be adamantly insisting on now may have been incorrect in the past (and vice versa).

Certainly, even more so, the spelling can vary in different cultures.

I was pulled up short by seeing the spelling “kerb” in Australia years ago, for what would be spelled “curb” in the USA (it was some sort of traffic or warning sign…I think it may have been about where to stand).

Obviously, I knew what it meant…I think, nowadays, I would simply find it more amusing (there’s that word again) and charming, but I do think I’ve become a better person over the years (I think the majority of people do). Oh, I wasn’t irritated then, but I think I thought it was funnier than I would now…there was perhaps a tad bit of  condescension  on my part, which was inappropriate.

I also catch myself spelling the same word different ways at different times…not through error or inattention, but perhaps through context.

For me, James Bond has a licence to kill, and I have a driver’s license. I assume I first read James Bond in a British edition, where the second “C” would be common, and that I’ve been seeing  the “S” at the American DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles). In England, I believe the “S” is the verb and “C” is the noun…in America, we just use the “S” version for both.

Here’s another example: how do you pronounce the word “Caribbean”? Obviously, this one isn’t just from reading, but from usage.

For me, the first syllable rhymes with “bear” in the place (and is emphasized), and it rhymes with “fur” in the adjective (and the third syllable is lightly emphasized).

So, I could hear the word out of context, and if someone was following my preferred pronunciations, I would know if it was a noun or an adjective…but honestly, how often is that situation going to arise? :)

I also use British slang at times (as well as some other dialects of English). When I’m surprised by something, I may say, “Hello!” and pretty commonly, “Hello, what’s this?” That’s not something that my fellow Americans say very often, with that connotation.

As a trainer, though, I have the ability to monitor what I am saying and adjust it for my audience. When I used to hire trainers, I would explain that the ability to “dissociate” (I use that to mean to be able to think about one thing while doing something else) was something I wanted.

I have empathy (another quality of trainers) for the people in the room…I can get a pretty good sense of how they feel. If I realize that they aren’t understanding my “big words”, for instance, I will dial that back (if they aren’t needed for the context).

I also now find that happens a lot for me with pop culture references. I may make a reference to The Man from U.N.C.L.E.** as easily as I’ll make one to Zayn leaving One Direction. I can tell if my students understand one or the other or both, and again, may make a joke about it and adjust.

My point in all this, as it has to do with reading, is that variety in spelling is fine with me…but I do think there is a tendency to standardize. That standardization is going to frequently move towards the American, for a few reasons:

  • America is a really big market…just like New York, if you can make it there, you’ll make it anywhere ;)
  • Much of the software, such as spell checking, is written in the U.S.A.. It may have regional settings, but I think many people simply don’t change them, even to match their own place of residence
  • This may be a stereotype, but Americans may be less…tolerant of understanding other culture’s local linguistics than they are of ours. Of course, the French are famously protective of their language, but it is seen as an American thing as well. I’ve also mentioned this before, but I sometimes see Americans derided for, by and large, not being bilingual (compared to, say, Europeans). I do think one legitimate reason for that is that we are a large country without a lot of other languages easily accessible to us (one exception being Spanish from Mexico, and French from parts near French-speaking Canada…and those are the two languages which are perhaps the most popular “second” languages for Americans). In Europe, you could probably drive through five different “language zones” in a day. We do have a lot of immigration, so there are many languages spoken in the USA…but again, by and large, we expect immigrants to learn English. We do voting materials in several languages, and where I work, we have a translation line with something like 300 languages available, but perhaps because we have such a heterogeneous country, it would be quite complex to expect everyone to learn everyone else’s language, so we standardize to English. Wow, that is probably the most complex sentence I’ve ever written in the blog!

What do you think? Do people ever think you are from another country because you’ve used a word or phrase you learned in a book? Are you comfortable with seeing words spelled differently from what you expect, or will that pull you out of a book? Would you rather read a book (Harry Potter is a good example) with the original language, or would you prefer it was “regionalized” for your country? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

** The Man from U.N.C.L.E. was a popular 1960s TV show (I like 19th Century literature and 1960s TV). Fortunately for me, there is a big screen remake coming out this year, so my references may make more sense to more people ;)

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Men’s Interest magazines in the USA Kindle store

March 6, 2015

Men’s Interest magazines in the USA Kindle store

I was looking at the “Special Offers” on my

Kindle Fire HDX 7″ (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping)

I should probably first say something about that. :)

There is often some…imprecision in how people describe Kindles (and Fires) with Special Offers.

You don’t have to pay something to get the ads removed: the ads reduce the cost of the device.

That’s how it was right from the beginning: when Amazon introduced the Special Offers program (just about four years ago…April 11th 2011, to be exact), it reduced the cost of the device by $25.

Basically what happens is that advertisers subsidize your purchase of the device. You agree to see ads (implicitly) in exchange for a lower price.

If you change your mind (or got the device as a gift), you can pay the difference and stop the ads.

However, I’ve gotten a lot of great deals with the Special Offers! That’s particularly true on the Fires, where we sometimes get these massive discount (more than 80% at times) for a very, very short time. It can even be that if you hover over the button and tap it as fast as you can, they can still be sold out.

The models with Special Offers are generally more popular than the ones without them.

People who don’t want them think they may be intrusive…but they are so unintrusive, I often miss something. :)

That’s why I go to Offers to see what is there (it’s all the way on your right on the homescreen).

One of them this time was for

Men’s Interest magazines (at AmazonSmile*)


That’s always been a weird idea to me, that books and magazines would be sold to people based on the customers’ genders.

Yes, when I managed a brick and mortar bookstore (and this was some time ago) we had a “Men’s Adventure” section.

Notice I always say that I managed the store…I didn’t own it, and that section was there when I took over.

That category was also often printed on the book by the publisher.

I have to be honest: I didn’t notice many women buying books from that section…or men buying Harlequin romances.

I’m sure there were women reading Remo Williams and men reading Iris Johansen, but that fact wasn’t commonly shared by them with everyone in the store. ;)

That was then, though…this is now.

Is there really a marketing advantage for Amazon to put a Special Offer on everyone’s Fires, and suggest that it is more likely to appeal to a minority of people (there are more women than men in the USA…and statistically, they tend to read more and buy more books, I believe)?

I was curious as to what they labeled as “Men’s Interest”.

I should clarify that: most likely, the publishers pick the categories. Amazon creates the categories, though.

Looking at the magazines by bestselling, they go like this:

  1. Sports Illustrated…I know they’ve worked on increasing their female audience. Professional athletics organizations across the country have tried to do that as well
  2. Rolling Stone: I don’t really see popular music as appealing particularly to men!
  3. Maxim: okay, I would guess their readership is primarily male
  4. Popular Science: this particularly concerns me. There is so much effort being done to get women more involved in STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math). No particular reason this should appeal more to men. I remember there was a controversy years ago with a talking Barbie that used a chip instead of a string. One of things Barbie said was, “Math class is hard.” As I recall, Mattel had to take that one out because of complaints…since Barbie is more likely to be owned by girls than by boys
  5. Men’s Health: I could give you that one…it’s right in the title
  6. Outside Magazine
  7. Outdoor Life: I don’t see either of these as not appealing to women. Of course, you could say that “Men’s Interest” doesn’t mean that it’s not interesting to women, too, but then what would be the point in using the label? I suspect it might be for people who are shopping for men, rather than for the men themselves
  8. Money Magazine: I don’t see any reason for this one. In fact, I’d be surprised if the readership is overwhelmingly male
  9. Backpacker: I wouldn’t say that I even automatically picture backpackers as male. If you say “backpacker” to me, I just don’t have that as a default concept
  10. The Family Handyman…hard to say.

Some of the other topics?

  • Cars
  • Guns
  • Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine (really? I would bet that more women read mysteries than men do)
  • Golf
  • Fighting (wrestling, martial arts)
  • Shutterbug…seriously?

I’m not going to pretend to know what marketing works better for Amazon.

If it was my site, though, I don’t think I’d have that category…or a “women’s fiction” category, for that matter.

Generally, I would want to categorize the works by the works themselves, rather than the intended audience (read: “market”).

The exception to that might be children’s books, I suppose. I have to think about that one.

Let me put this out to you:

Have you been helped in purchasing by having something labeled by gender? Did you ever walk into a bookstore, and look for a “man’s section” to buy a gift? If you ran a bookstore (including a website), how would you categorize the books? Have you “felt funny” about buying a book when you clearly weren’t the intended target market? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

Update: reader Steve made an interesting comment, which prompted me to check what is listed under “Women’s Interest”. If the same magazines were listed in both places, would that make it more reasonable? My feeling would still be no…for me, it’s about the idea that the magazine will particularly appeal to one gender. Saying it particularly appeals to both genders is saying nothing, except as a “double force” marketing ploy.

A “double force” is a magic trick stratagem (and it is used by con artists as well). Basically, it means that you appear to have a choice in something, but you really don’t.

For example, the magician cuts a deck of cards. The magician then asks you to pick one half. If the magician wants Half A and you pick Half B, the magician says, “Okay, we’ll remove that one.” If you pick Half A, the magician says, “Okay, we’ll use that one.” You felt like you controlled the situation…but you didn’t.

Here are the top ten (at time of writing) magazines listed under Women’s Interest:

  1. Us Weekly
  2. Prevention
  3. Southern Living
  4. Cooking Light
  5. Women’s Health
  6. ShopSmart
  7. More
  8. The Knot
  9. Brides
  10. Women’s Adventure

There are far fewer magazines in the Women’s category than in the Men’s, interestingly enough.

The only magazine that overlaps?

eFiction Magazine (at AmazonSmile*)

Fiction should appeal to both, in my opinion…but I don’t see a reason to label it as both appealing specifically to men and specifically to women. Maybe there should be a “Humans” section? ;) Of course, I wouldn’t want to discriminate against non-humans who read…artificial intelligence, and some dogs (including one that belongs to a sibling of mine…the dog helps with a disability, and can read a few commands), among others. ;)

 Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) By the way, it’s been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to “start at AmazonSmile” if I check a link on the original Amazon site. I do buy from AmazonSmile, but I have a lot of stored links I use to check for things.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

The longest pre-orders

September 17, 2011

The longest pre-orders

This is one of those weird things that I just don’t get.

You can pre-order books in the Kindle store. That in itself is a bit strange to me, unless they are free when you order them. You can get a book in sixty seconds, usually…why pre-order it? As I’ve discussed before, I do get the fun in having one show up that don’t even remember ordering. Generally, though, I figured you mostly pre-ordered a paper book so you could get it on the release date…or because you were getting a lower price. With paperbooks, it helped publishers (and retailers) a lot for you to pre-order…they had to figure out how many books to print or to stock: that’s not a factor with e-books. It also helps drive up first day sales, of course, and that helps. :)

What’s the reasoning, though, when you are waiting for a pre-order for years?

I’ve noticed that sort of thing from time to time in the Kindle store. Once, it was because the book was going to fall into the public domain at that time. So, the future publisher was sort holding the spot for when they could publish it without paying royalties to the author or the author’s estate.

What explains this one, though?

PC Technician Street Smarts: A Real World Guide to CompTIA A+ Skills


The pre-order is scheduled to be delivered on October 5, 2021.

Yes…because clearly, what’s relevant in a computer technician’s life will be relevant a decade from now. ;)

The paperback is in stock, published October 5, 2009…twelve years to the day before the Kindle edition is scheduled to be published.

One reasonable hypothesis is that it is just a typo…that Sybex (the publisher) intended to be published October 5, 2011…just typed a two instead of a one.

I’m not sure that a mistake like that helps sell a computer technician book…that field of endeavor doesn’t really favor mistakes. ;)

This one is also weird:

Mistresses of Henry VIII

Here’s the Kindle publication history/schedule:

Kindle Edition, July 27, 2011 $10.00
Kindle Edition, December 26, 2010 $12.00
Kindle Edition, December 26, 2010 $9.99
Kindle Edition, February 1, 2000 $10.00
Kindle Edition, December 26, 2020 $10.00
Kindle Edition, December 26, 2010 $10.00
Kindle Edition, December 26, 2010 $10.00
Kindle Edition, December 26, 2010 $10.00
Kindle Edition, December 26, 2010 $10.00
Kindle Edition, December 26, 2020 $10.00
Kindle Edition, December 26, 2020 $10.00
Kindle Edition, December 26, 2020 $10.00

Several editions scheduled for the same day? Maybe each edition focuses on one mistress? ;) Presumably, Henry the VIII isn’t going to get any more mistresses between now and then…

By the way, the cover image appears to be for a different book: curiouser and curiouser. That same cover image is also used for this book scheduled for December 26, 2020:

Test book

There’s also a whole series of what appear to be kids’ books, called the Shenanigans Series…that are due to be published on September 15, 2020. The paperbacks are available now…maybe they are pre-programming nostalgia?

Anywhere, there are a lot of strange eddies in the Amazon river…this is one of them…

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

Atavistic geographic tendencies

July 3, 2011

Atavistic geographic tendencies

I regularly read p-books (paperbooks) for decades, and I’ve been regularly reading e-books not even a tenth of that time.

Still, I feel like I’ve generally made the transition. I don’t look around for a bookmark any more. I never try to reach for the page to turn it.

Recently, though, I did notice one thing that I still do which is a residual of my paperbook days.

In those days, I used to keep at least one book in each room. One room had thousands, and several rooms had…more than twenty. However, as I went from room to room, there was a book there for me to read.

Yes, I tended to read several books at the same time…still do.

So, what am I doing now that’s based on my paper habits?

I went to lunch at a particular cafeteria. I work in a lot of locations, so I may not be in the same cafeteria all that often. I sat down with my tray, woke up my Kindle…and opened a particular blog.

The same blog I read the last time I was in that cafeteria…and the time before that.

I pretty much haven’t read that blog anywhere else.

Just as if had been a magazine or a paperbook I had left in that room.

I thought about it, and realized there is another book I tend to read just in one room.

There is no reason to do that with the Kindle…I have all those books available to me in all those places.

I think that’s just a leftover way of doing things.

What about you? Do you still find yourself doing things the paper way? Feel free to let me know. :)

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

So many ways to read

September 25, 2010

So many ways to read

This was just interesting.

Not too long ago, I was on BART, our local subway system.  I, of course, had my Kindle out to read.  I was standing in the back of the car, so it happened that I could see a number of people.

Just to my right was a person writing in a paper composition book…you know, the ones with those cardboard, black and white mottled covers.  I didn’t look at what was being written, of course, but I would guess a diary or some such.  It didn’t seem like notes on something. 

To that person’s right, someone else was reading on a smartphone.  That appeared to be a book.

Immediately to my left, another person had out a big hardback book…I think a novel. 

Not far away was someone reading on a Kindle 2 (I have a K3).

A couple of rows ahead, there was a mass market paperback.

I could also see a laptop, but I’m not sure the person was reading something so much as working on something.

I looked around for a chiseled stone tablet, but didn’t see one.  ;)

Just fun to see…reading, reading, everywhere…

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.


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