First post from Kiribati

We have arrived in Kiribati! It’s lovely – the weather has been rough and ready, but hot and wet. The people are lovely and the scenery is quite amazing. I pinch myself every day. The internet connection on the other hand is appalling. And when I say internet connection I mean Internet Connection – there are a few bottle necks, but the most frustrating is that of the national telecom monopoly – their uplink, the main one on the island, is appalling. This blog post is being constructed in a text editor offline on the weekend from tabs I didn’t close on Friday afternoon and it feels quite unnatural. Anyway, more on the Kiribati language is coming, in the mean time I thought I’d mention two articles I noticed during the week.

The first is from Fully(Sic) the Crikey’s language blog about the localisation of comics in the daily papers here in Australia. In focus is the localisation of Zit’s use of mom being changed to mum. The bulk of the artile ruminates on the limited use of localisation from American (or British) into Australian – we have internalised their spellings and language usage over the last 50 years by importing their culture:

The Zits case is different though. We’re quite used to our locally produced content (or British content, for that matter) being edited for US audiences. But changing mom for mum in the Zits cartoon goes the other way. And this is something we’re not used to. We in Australia are effectively bidialectal – we hear US English (and likely other dialects too) very frequently and can effortlessly translate phrases, lexical items and spellings without it even breaching our conscious mind. For this, I suppose we can thank fifty years or more of pervasive US culture dominating our media. Perhaps this is the reason that such substitutions irritate Alan – just like everyone else, he knows that Americans spell it mom, and has no problem understanding it, but critically he also knows that Zits is an American comic strip – the characters’ voices in his head would most probably have American accents. So when he reads mum where he expects mom, it’s clearly going to be quite jarring.

The second article is from the dependable dev/null. A German company have started “creating” t-shirts – or more accurately t-shirt slogans, in both English and German:

Some of the results are more presentable than others; one might believe that “Budapest Bicycle Flux” was a semi-obscure math-rock band whose gig the wearer happened to catch in some college-town bar back in the day, and there are situations where one might plausibly wear a T-shirt reading “I Reject Your Reality And Replace It With Cupcakes”, which, alas, cannot be said for some of the outputs, such as “your vagina is a wonderland”, or a grid of words including “Hitlerponys”, “Mörderpenis” and/or the decidedly euphemistic-sounding “wurstvuvuzela”. … Interestingly enough, after clicking through the site for a while, a reader with a limited grasp of German may find their German comprehension improving slightly; perhaps the flood of meaningful (if nonsequiturial) sentences exercises the language pattern-matching parts of the brain in some kind of process of combinatorial fuzzing, reinforcing plausible word sequences.