What have you done that atheists can’t? »« Help This Desert Kit Fox Study Get Moving

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  1. Kimpatsu says

    But they mispronounce “aluminum”!
    No, you misspell “aluminium”!
    :D

  2. says

    I knew that posting this at a time when most Europeans are wide awake (as am I!) would draw an instant reaction.

    No, I never troll my own blog!

  3. madtom1999 says

    Aluminum is a non existant metal used by drunk engineers in place of aluminium.

  4. natashatasha says

    Representing the Australian cohort armed against you, PZ! Fear us!
    Grrrr!

  5. says

    In the end I still prefer the simplicity of The Elements, but I think it is a good try. Perhaps someone should try making a new Lobachevsky, he deserves another song written about him.

  6. FossilFishy(Anti-Vulcanist) says

    Next up:

    Boot
    Bonnet
    Torch
    Jumper

    And the eternally pernicious: ToMAHto.

  7. JohnnieCanuck says

    Unfortunately the contamination has already spread to this country. Beware USAnians exporting their culture (!) everywhere they can. Oops, that would be this site too, wouldn’t it.

    Only somewhat off topic, a gallon can of paint here used to be 4.55 litres. Then came metrification and it shrank to 4.0 litres. Not too long after NAFTA came to pass, it became necessary to make it 3.79 litres; a US gallon. Help, help, I’m being assimilated.

    One nice thing about standards, there are so many to choose from.

  8. says

    Boot: something you wear on your feet.
    Bonnet: something you wear on your head.
    Torch: something the annoying peasants are always waving and threatening to use to burn down your lab.
    Jumper: something you use to recharge your monster from your car battery.
    ToMAHto: I have no idea what that is, unless it’s the weird red sliced thing Europeans try to serve at breakfast, along with beans. (yes, I just got back from breakfast at my hotel. Tomatoes and beans. I skipped that and went for the fruit instead.)

  9. Banecroft says

    NAFTA was mentioned and my skin shivered, was repulsed, and slithered from my body. At least, it would make for a good movie if it did that.

  10. Brian says

    I’ll start pronouncing it aluminium when the rest of the world starts referring to tantalium.

  11. bad Jim says

    Breakfast buffet in Copenhagen offered an assortment of pickled herring. In Edinburgh, haggis. One-stop gastronomic tourism?

  12. gillyc says

    PZ, the tomatoes and beans were presumably to go with the sausage, bacon, egg, mushrooms, hash browns and, if they’re doing it properly, black pudding, to make a proper Full English Breakfast. (Actually a proper full english would have fried bread rather than hash browns, but you’re not likely to find fried bread in a hotel.)
    I would normally say it should be tried at least once, but it’s not exactly heart-friendly so perhaps you’re best avoiding it.

  13. madtom1999 says

    gillyc – fried bread done in lard is quite healthy compared to the same bread spread with butter.
    At the moment it would have less harmful fats.

  14. Dr Marcus Hill Ph.D. (arguing from his own authority) says

    We may have lost the battle on the spelling of sulphur, but we’ll never give up on aluminium, even if it goes against Humph. Similarly, I’m fighting a rearguard battle against a number of Americanisms that have become acceptable in the UK – the “-ize” suffix is now as acceptable as the correct “-ise”, but whenever UK English (but I repeat myself) has two possibilities, the one I’ll choose is whichever is wrong in USian.

  15. Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

    Alyoomineeum!

    Wen I’m Prezidnt uv the Fedrel Ripublik uv Britn, weel hav riformd speling!

  16. John Morales says

    It’s not the spelling that’s the problem, it’s that there are variants.

    What’s required is a Global Standard English, where each word is spelt uniquely.

  17. Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

    Sorry, I was trialling your idea, John. #30 was:

    Wouldn’t that be confusing?

  18. says

    It’s “Aluminium”, damnit. And for the record, there are no such things as “eggplants”, “zucchini” or “rutabaga”.

  19. John Morales says

    Nick, why would it be confusing? It’s only orthography, the words themselves would retain their meaning.

    (The pun-space would be different, I imagine)

  20. astro says

    wow, all this talk about aluminum, and not one single mention that the graphic for silicon is a pair of boobs?

  21. salahhesali says

    Q: Why do you call it Aluminum instead of Aluminium like the rest of the world?
    A: Because fuck them.

  22. Louis says

    PZ,

    I have two replies for you, one as an Englishman, one as a chemist:

    1) Fuck you! It’s aluminium and nothing else. Hurrah!

    2) IUPAC allows both aluminium and aluminum, written and pronounced, although the strong preference (and thus all their internal and external communications reflect this) is for aluminium. Alumium is antiquated and out of date. I’d count this as a partial loss for American aluminum lovers. However, you won with sulfur, so perhaps you can give in with good grace on aluminium.

    Louis

  23. says

    That information would come as a surprise to the Pioneer Valley Growers Association. They seem to think they grow eggplants.

    They’re wrong. They grow aubergines.

  24. randay says

    As a USasininien, I go along with “plow” rather than the absurd “plough”, which is unpronounceable..

  25. says

    As a USasininien, I go along with “plow” rather than the absurd “plough”, which is unpronounceable..

    I see nothing wrong with the sentence “Plough through that rough ground, and do it thoroughly.”

  26. epicure says

    The Merkins have totally lost it by spelling ‘kilometre’ as ‘kilometer’, confusing a unit of measure with a measuring instrument – and making everybody pronounce it with stress in entire;y the wrong place so that it sounds meaningless…

    Mutter mutter ‘train station’ mutter ‘RAILWAY station’…

  27. usagichan says

    That information would come as a surprise to the Pioneer Valley Growers Association. They seem to think they grow eggplants.

    They’re wrong. They grow aubergines.

    I remember a Turkish delicatasen near where I lived when I lived in London (Catford for the Brits out there) selling tiny white aubergines that looked just like ova…

    ‘scuse me while I go for a bag of ghoti ‘n chips (theatrically wipes away tear of nostalgia)

  28. says

    epicure:

    Mutter mutter ‘train station’ mutter ‘RAILWAY station’…

    And for that matter, what the hell is a “railroad”?

  29. DLC says

    PZ — no, the Jumper is to use your monster to recharge your auto battery.

    I drove my motor the short root to the harbour where I painted my all-aluminium sloop a new colour. Now I need to weatherise it.

  30. Loud - warm smiles do not make you welcome here says

    And don’t get me started on how Americans pronounce ‘herb’!

  31. Cuttlefish says

    I see nothing wrong with the sentence “Plough through that rough ground, and do it thoroughly.”

    *cough*

  32. Dr Marcus Hill Ph.D. (arguing from his own authority) says

    And they can’t even pronounce the place names they stole from us – “Birmingham” doesn’t rhyme with any pork product (unless you can get pork flavoured chewing gum, I suppose).

  33. says

    Oh, and “shire” used as a suffix on a county-name, doesn’t rhyme with “tyre.”

    (Coincidentally, my Firefox spell-chequer has just this last few days taken to reverting back to the U.S. English dictionary. I don’t suppose anyone knows a permanent fix for this?)

  34. FossilFishy(Anti-Vulcanist) says

    Trying to buy building supplies here in Australia I’ve asked for two by fours and drywall and was met by blank stares. I also tried to buy a tyre iron and after some back and forth left with a wheel brace. O.o

  35. Lofty says

    I’ve asked for two by fours

    You’d have to be over 50 for imperial measurements to feature in your education in Australia! Most building suppliers are staffed by people born well after 1974 (metrication)
    Then there’s faucet = tap, tire = tyre, gas = petrol etc

  36. sc_03f46cfd654710da425f69d711107372 says

    The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry has is as “Aluminium”, though they do note that ‘“aluminum” and “cesium” are commonly used alternative spellings for “aluminium” and “caesium.”’ They don’t say they are correct, just that they are common..

    http://tinyurl.com/p7lgmbq

    The deal was that we (the British) would spell sulfur with an “f” instead of a “ph” and you would spell and pronounce aluminium correctly. We held up our end of the bargain.

  37. vole says

    There are no limits to American cultural imperialism. But even if they manage to impose their misspellings on the rest of the world – which is only a matter of time, since they produce most of the “spellcheckers” – they’ll still mispronounce everything. Unless it’s in Spanish.

  38. blf says

    Breakfast buffet in Copenhagen offered an assortment of pickled herring.

    Also in Oslo. I rather liked it, despite having a raging hangover. My companions, who had even worse hangovers, got noticeably greener complexions when I staggered back for seconds.

  39. WharGarbl says

    wow, all this talk about aluminum, and not one single mention that the graphic for silicon is a pair of boobs?

    What’s wrong with that? The technology to make giant breasts is obviously much more important than the technology that enabled modern computers.
    What use is porn distribution technology if there’s no porn involving men mashing their faces into unrealistic humongous breasts?

  40. FossilFishy(Anti-Vulcanist) says

    The best (worst) communication problem I’ve had to date from being a Canadian ex-pat in Australia came during my then four year old daughter’s bath time.

    “Dad, pass me the ball.”

    “And how do we ask for things honey?”

    “Can you please pass me the ball?”

    “Sure, here you go.”

    [passes her the blue bumpy ball]

    “No Dad, the ball.”

    “I gave you the ball.”

    “No the ball…” getting upset now “… the ball, the BALL!”

    [points to the pile of bath toys at the end of the tub]

    “But honey, I gave you the ball.”

    “No you didn’t! It’s right there, the yellow ball.”

    “Oooooh, the yellow bowl! I’m sorry, here you go.”

    Yup, forget about the locals, I can’t even understand my own daughter because of her accent.

  41. says

    So what does the rest of the world call a two by four?

    In the UK (at least, in my age-group who were edumacated during the changeover period ) it’s still two-by-four, colloquially. The metric size, if I remember rightly, would be about 40mm × 90mm (remembering that 2″ × 4″ is the rough-cut: finished-size 1.5″ × 3.5″).

  42. David Marjanović says

    (Coincidentally, my Firefox spell-chequer has just this last few days taken to reverting back to the U.S. English dictionary. I don’t suppose anyone knows a permanent fix for this?)

    Shut it the fuck off. That’s the very first thing I do when I install a browser or a text-processing program.

    When grown people need a spellchecker, something is seriously wrong with your spelling system.

    So what does the rest of the world call a two by four?

    Probably it simply doesn’t exist in most places. I don’t know of any German name for “a common size of dimensional lumber”; remember that almost no houses over here are made of wood.

    40mm × 90mm

    So 4 × 9 cm, then. Nobody talks in millimeters.

    “No you didn’t! It’s right there, the yellow ball.”

    “Oooooh, the yellow bowl!

    *blink* Wow. I really didn’t expect that one.

  43. says

    @Marcus Hill

    Place names are tricky. Most british place names are also North American place names, which is to say they are now also our place names. So I feel quite justified in pronouncing Peterborough, Ontario, the way I like. It’s also an accent thing – if I want to say a lot of UK place names “correctly”, which I apparently can with the few which have been absolutely drilled into me by british relatives (like bloody Edinburgh), I basically have to very briefly fake a different accent for it to come out sounding “right”.

    As for north americans using different words for things, I thought British people were really attached to the feeling of superiority they get from using odd words and confusing north americans. If we started adopting those words, then the silly little battle would be over, and wouldn’t you all be so sad?

  44. Dhorvath, OM says

    Nobody talks in millimeters.

    Stay away from the bike industry. I have a 19″ frame with a 620mm top tube, my wheels weigh 2300g and my bike weighs 32.5 pounds. We use what measures we want.

  45. FossilFishy(Anti-Vulcanist) says

    When grown people need a spellchecker, something is seriously wrong with your spelling system.

    . Come on David, your better than this. Some of us have difficulty in spelling that’s unrelated to education. I’m mildly dislexic and read at a speed where words, and even groups of words are just seen as shapes rather than collections of letters.

    I struggle a great deal with spelling. In my last year of high school my English teacher gave us a hundred word spelling and definition test to see what she had to work with to get us ready for upper education. I got 97 definitions right and spelled only 44 correctly IIRC. She said she’d never seen anything like it.

    Oddly, the advent of real time spellcheckers has improved my native spelling. When I see that red line I retype the word until I get it right. Despite that, I still get stuck to the point where I have to search elsewhere for a spelling at least a couple of times a day.

  46. FossilFishy(Anti-Vulcanist) says

    Oh it gets worse than that Dhorvath. There’s a Campy 10mm axle that’s threaded at 26 threads per inch. Two different measurement standards on the same damn part!

  47. yazikus says

    I spent several teenage years thinking that aluminum and aluminium were two different elements (science was not my strong point). Attending high school in europe and america did not help.
    Back when I was twenty or so, I was filling out a crossword puzzle and one of the clues was Fe. I remember cackling to myself and thinking that I should send a postcard to my chemistry teacher to tell her that yes, the periodic table did have some use in everyday life, I wouldn’t have been able to complete my crossword without it!
    I’ve learned much since, wish I had paid better attention.

  48. WharGarbl says

    @David
    #59

    When grown people need a spellchecker, something is seriously wrong with your spelling system.

    Or they don’t speak English and have to communicate in English?

  49. Dhorvath, OM says

    FossilFishy,
    I could have gone on, it’s a bizarre hodgepodge all around. Still, I will take retired to bikes over working in some ‘sensible’ industry thanks.

  50. says

    When grown people need a spellchecker, something is seriously wrong with your spelling system.

    Or maybe I’m an untrained, ham-fisted typist? The implication that this makes me somewhat less than fully adult is much appreciated, thank you.

  51. chigau (違う) says

    I read it that David Marjanović was criticizing The English Language, not the people trying to use it.

  52. says

    Yeah, reading my comment back, I should say I it read humorously in my head as I said it, and it was meant as such.

    Sorry David.

  53. zekehoskin says

    Rutherfordium, Roentgenium, Lawrencium, Livermorium,
    Copernicium, Hassium, Flerovium, and Bohrium,
    Dubnium, Seaborgium, Meitnerium, Darmstadtium;
    One-thirteen and one-eighteen, they still need a few more ad-toms.
    Lots of people have tried to extend Tom Lehrer’s song of the first 102 elements. It’s a challenge to approach his level of wit, rhyme, scansion, and alliteration given a handful of lumpy words. Sure drives my spell-chequer crazy. “Lawrencium” and “Rutherfordium” are the only ones it approves.

  54. Rey Fox says

    “Plough through that rough ground, and do it thoroughly.”

    It will cure your hiccoughs.

  55. agenoria says

    @hyperdeath

    Nineteenth century railway engineers in the UK often spoke of railroads.

    There’s an ad on the front of The Times, November 9, 1807, for the sale of an ironworks and colliery in Shropshire with “a rail road to the Severn”.

    But I’ve been wondering for some time why a railway station has now become a train station.

    BTW Jane Austen mentions baseball in Northanger Abbey which was written about 1798-9.

  56. John Morales says

    David,

    So 4 × 9 cm, then. Nobody talks in millimeters.

    The full metric system is too esoteric for most Australians; such prefixes as deci-, deca- and hecto- are basically ignored.

    (So we end up with 400m races and 750 ml drink bottles rather than 4 hm and 75 cl)

  57. says

    wow, all this talk about aluminum, and not one single mention that the graphic for silicon is a pair of boobs?

    I’ve seen at least one YouTube video of the original Lehrer Elements that did the same thing; dare we hope that this was a nod and a wink to that, and not just salacious ignorance?

    At least silicone contains silicon.

    And ['Merkins] can’t even pronounce the place names they stole from us – “Birmingham” doesn’t rhyme with any pork product (unless you can get pork flavoured chewing gum, I suppose).

    Ahh, but without that “error” we would not have this gem from the transcendent Emmylou Harris.

  58. Lofty says

    Aussie metrication foibles:
    Timber and steel is measured in millimetres, as +/- 1mm is as accurate as you can see or cut in construction (steel tape measures). So a 4 x 2 is 90 x 45mm and is sold in 6000mm lengths.
    But pipe is less logical, ordinary 1/2″ pipe has been transliterated to 15mm, that being the actual size ID that the sample pipe was when the boffins took their tape measure to it. You can buy it in 6500mm (20ft) lengths. Not surprisingly the threads are the same as BSP sizes but you try asking a young sales staff for that in imperial.
    Then there’s copper tube, sold as no. 6, 8, 10 or 12 instead of 1/4, 5/16, 3/8 or 1/2 inch which is what it actually is. Then there’s actual metric tube out of Europe to confuse the local engineers.
    And cooks get the metric “cups” at 250ml instead of the old quarter pint of 300ml. My wife is still very imperial and I spend quite some time interpreting metric recipes back to her traditional system of units. Cooking is where an ounce is close enough. Grams drive her round the bend, too many of them for their own good.

  59. Ichthyic says

    Boot: something you wear on your feet.
    Bonnet: something you wear on your head.
    Torch: something the annoying peasants are always waving and threatening to use to burn down your lab.
    Jumper: something you use to recharge your monster from your car battery.
    ToMAHto: I have no idea what that is, unless it’s the weird red sliced thing Europeans try to serve at breakfast, along with beans. (yes, I just got back from breakfast at my hotel. Tomatoes and beans. I skipped that and went for the fruit instead.)

    …and root?

  60. Ichthyic says

    You shouldn’t have brought that up!

    indeed, as that one is actually wrong, and never was an issue of national difference.

    The accepted spelling today is hiccup. ‘Hiccough’ is considered an error in that it’s a back-formation that comes from a mistaken association with ‘cough’. Earlier versions include hickop, hicket and hyckock – all, like hiccup, considered onomatopoeic in origin.

    http://qi.com/television/series-h/health-and-safety/hiccups

    hattip to Chris Clarke, AGAIN, for turning me on to QI.

  61. usagichan says

    Dr Marcus Hill Ph.D. @ 47

    And they can’t even pronounce the place names they stole from us – “Birmingham” doesn’t rhyme with any pork product (unless you can get pork flavoured chewing gum, I suppose).

    So, presumably you defer to native pronounciation for all place names – Glasgow of course rhymes with Paris? And Port Talbot? (…according to a native of that town with whom I was once aquiainted, even the Welsh get that one wrong most of the time).

    I do however remember having to supress a smile when realising, after five minutes of conversation with an American, that the Saint Wreath-Ham he was looking for was actually Streatham (pronounced Strett`em when I lived there)*

    Anyway, residence in Tokyo has exposed me to some of the most extreme phonic confusion (as mispronounced foreign words are then transliterated, obscuring their roots even further). For example, I recently learned that the exotic sounding Zemmesu-zaka was a hill named after an early English resident. Of course I knew the suffix -saka or -zaka means slope (as different from a “hill” that is a smaller mountain), but Zemmesu (actually spelled that way in romaji on a helpful sign, transliterated back from katakana)? Much confusion until a bit more research lead me to the fact that a Mr James had lived there at around the turn of the 19th Century…

    *Warning – this tale might be an apocryphal inclusion to my fast deteriorating true memory – your mnemonic milage (kilometerage?) may vary!

  62. usagichan says

    Oh and to our tentacled overlord…

    Boot: something you wear on your feet.
    Bonnet: something you wear on your head.
    Torch: something the annoying peasants are always waving and threatening to use to burn down your lab.
    Jumper: something you use to recharge your monster from your car battery.
    ToMAHto: I have no idea what that is, unless it’s the weird red sliced thing Europeans try to serve at breakfast, along with beans. (yes, I just got back from breakfast at my hotel. Tomatoes and beans. I skipped that and went for the fruit instead.)

    Trunk: an elephant’s nose.
    Hood: something you wear on your head.
    Torch: something the annoying peasants are always waving and threatening to use to burn down your lab. (can’t disagree with this one)
    Jumper: what do you get when you cross a sheep with a kangaroo?
    ToMAHto: you say?

  63. John Morales says

    usagichan, ah yes, you remind me to offer a pedantic quibble about what PZ wrote.

    Tomatoes and beans. I skipped that and went for the fruit instead

    Tomatoes are fruit, and beans are either fruit or the seeds of fruit (depending on the specifics).

  64. bassmanpete says

    I see nothing wrong with the sentence “Plough through that rough ground, and do it thoroughly.”

    Then there was the snake that sloughed its skin in Slough.

  65. vole says

    Carrots are in fact fruit, according to the European Union regulations concerning jam. This was done so that it should continue to be legal for the Portuguese to make carrot “marmalade”. The same applies to the sweet potato.

  66. Fred Magyar says

    “When grown people need a spellchecker, something is seriously wrong with your spelling system.”

    Wot?! There is a spelling ‘SYSTEM’ for the Anglo Saxon vernacular? Chortle, chortle, chortle!

  67. Thumper; Atheist mate says

    I much preferr Tom Lehrer’s version, though I believe more have been discovered since he wrote it. I first heard this when my A-level Chemistry teacher played it to the class :) the memories may be why I like it so much.