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Dennis Baron's go-to site for language and technology in the news
Results for "June, 2013"

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  • Supreme Court overturns DOMA

    Defining marriage: a huge win for human rights and good news for lexicographers

    The Supreme Court ruling in United States v. Windsor is a huge win for supporters of marriage equality, effectively doubling the availability of same-sex marriage in the United States. Supporters of lexicography may celebrate as well, because in Windsor the Court struck down the definition of marriage in the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) without ever once saying, “The dictionary says . . . .”

  • The poster for the role-reversal romcom Take a Letter, Darling (1942) shows advertising executive Rosalind Russell dictating a letter to her secretary, Fred MacMurray.

    Siri, take a sonnet . . . (or, what if Shakespeare had a speech-to-text app on his quill pen?)

    Our lives have become so suffused with digital devices that it’s hard to imagine what life was like before. Watching a character in a dark alley in an old movie, I want to shout at the screen, “Use your cell phone, call for help!” Why don’t they ever listen? . . . We have Pride and Prejudice rewritten as Facebook status updats, and Romeo and Juliet reduced to a couple of text messages. So I’ve been thinking, what if Shakespeare had autocorrect on his quill pen? What if Wordsworth used speech-to-text instead of dictating his poems to his sister? 

  • Helping MI6 with their inquiries

    An inconvenient tweet: it's against the law in England

    At least six people have been arrested in England for tweets about the recent terrorist killing of a British soldier, and they’re only the latest tweeters to be punished because some tweets, in England, are against the law. In 2012, 653 Brits faced criminal charges because they crossed the line in one way or another while using social media.

    The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees free speech. Espionage, obscenity, and fighting words are not protected, along with certain kinds of commercial speech. You can’t conspire with the enemy, shout fire in a crowded theater, lie about a product you are selling, or broadcast obscenity or profanity over the airwaves during hours when children might be in the audience. Other than that, anyone can say just about anything online or off, and the law will look the other way.

    But England has no free-speech guarantees. The English Communications Act makes it illegal for the 6.6 million active tweeters in the U.K, to tweet anything grossly offensive, obscene, or menacing. But it’s also against British law to send any electronic communication “for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety to another.” In England, it is illegal to send an inconvenient tweet.