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Results for "March, 2007"

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  • Google translates text untouched by human hands

    Google, the company that became a household word by searching websites without actually reading them, wants to translate text untouched by human hands, or by the human voice.

  • Guns and grammar: punctuation doesn't make meaning, people do

    Citing the second comma of the 2nd Amendment, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled March 9 that district residents may keep guns ready to shoot in their homes.

  • Reinventing English: Why plain language isn't so simple

    Almost a decade ago Bill Clinton and Al Gore ordered the federal government to begin communicating with Americans in plain English.  All government documents created after Oct. 1, 1998, had to use easy words and short sentences, plus pronouns like you and the active voice.  Agencies were given three years to rewrite all their old documents in plain English as well. 

    If my recent struggle with IRS Form 1040 is any example, that directive, like the Clinton administration’s other attempts to reinvent government, institute universal health care, decriminalize military homosexuality, or get anything done at all, failed miserably.  Perhaps it was the Republican Congress, not the English language, that tripped them up, but then again, Clinton wasn’t even sure what the meaning of a simple word like “is” is.

  • The N-word: on its way out?

    The New York City Council has called for a symbolic moratorium on the use of the “N” word, joining a growing movement to ban a word inextricably associated with racism and hate.  Angry over Michael Richards’ explosive use of the word, and disturbed by its popularity among those African Americans who put a positive spin on it as a term of solidarity or  endearment, black leaders like Jesse Jackson are also calling for a ban; Ebony and Jet magazines will drop the n-word from their pages; and at least one African American comedian has pulled it from his routines.   

    There’s a website called abolishthenword.com which is trying to do just what its name implies (while also marketing t-shirts), and the word has become a hot issue at schools and colleges around the country, with discussions about its appropriateness taking place at Indiana University, Syracuse, Augusta State, and Penn State, to name only a few.  Stillman College is hosting an academic conference to consider the n-word’s origins, its variations, and the controversies that frequently attach to its use as a word emphasizing racial division.  New York’s public schools held a contest asking students to write why the word should be abolished.  And the town of Brazoria, Texas, considered fining residents $500 if they used the word (the proposal was withdrawn after both black and white residents strongly objected).

  • A modest proposal: Don't make English official, ban it instead

    Once again the House of Representatives is considering legislation to make English the official language of the United States. Supporters of the measure say that English forms the glue that keeps America together. They deplore the dollars wasted translating English into other languages. And they fear a horde of illegal aliens adamantly refusing to acquire the most powerful language on earth.