Tags: english

3

sparkline

Semantic brevity

When I write here at adactio.com, I often sprinkle in some microformats. As I wrote in Natural Language hCard, I’ve developed a sense of smell for microformats:

Once I started looking for it, I started seeing identity and event information in lots of places… even when it doesn’t explicitly look like cards or calendars.

If I’m linking to somebody using their full formated name, then it’s a no-brainer that I’ll turn that into an hCard:

<span class="vcard">
<a class="fn url" href="http://example.com/">
Joe Bloggs
</a>
</span>

But what if I don’t want want to use the full name? It would sound somewhat stilted if I wrote:

I was chatting with Richard Rutter the other day…

When you work alongside someone every day, it sounds downright weird to always refer to them by their full name. It’s much more natural for me to write:

I was chatting with Richard the other day…

I would still make his name a hyperlink but what can I do about making this text into an hCard? Should I change my writing style and refer to everyone by their full formated name even if the context and writing style would favour just using their first name?

Enter the abbr element:

ABBR: Indicates an abbreviated form

I can write “Richard” in my body text and use the semantics of (X)HTML to indicate that this is the abbreviated form of “Richard Rutter”:

<abbr title="Richard Rutter">
Richard
</abbr>

From there, it’s a simple step to providing an hCard containing the formated name without compromising the flow of my text:

<span class="vcard">
<a class="url" href="http://clagnut.com/">
<abbr class="fn" title="Richard Rutter">
Richard
</abbr>
</a>
</span>

Now a parser will have to do some extra legwork to find the formated name within the title attribute of the abbr element rather than in the text between the opening and closing tags of whatever element has a class of “fn”. But that’s okay. That’s all part of the microformats philosophy:

Designed for humans first and machines second

Specifically, humans who publish first, machines that parse second.

If I were to link off to Richard’s site from here, I’d also combine my microformats: hCard + XFN:

<span class="vcard">
<a class="url" rel="friend met co-worker" href="http://clagnut.com/">
<abbr class="fn" title="Richard Rutter">
Richard
</abbr>
</a>
</span>

Now I’ve got a bounty of semantic richness:

All of that in one word of one clause of one sentence:

I was chatting with Richard the other day…

Irritation

Dear Auntie Beeb,

Like countless pedants before me, I am sad enough to take some time out of my day to point out a minor error in the article On the road with wi-fi and video:

Nokia’s gadget suffers the sins of many of its mobile phones — confusing menus and a sluggish response make it irritable to use.

While I have no doubt that having a journalist constantly pressing its buttons would make any device irritable, I suspect that the intended meaning is that the device is irritating to use.

Insert standard closing remark about license fees and education standards including the words “in this day and age” somewhere.

Yours,

Irritated in Brighton.

P.S. Are you reading Grammarblog? Then your life is not yet complete. Go, read and nod your head vigorously in agreement on issues such as “loose” vs. “lose” and “I could care less”.

A brief word

As if further proof were needed that Hollywood is, in fact, not run by Jews, Mel Gibson has a new film out called Apocalypto.

For the past week, television ads have been running in continuous rotation. The plot of the movie is teasingly summarised and the most exciting segments are shown to titillate the senses. These advertisements finish with an announcement that the film can be seen in cinemas from “jan five”.

That’s exactly what’s said: jan five. Not “January fifth”, or “the fifth of January”, or even “January five”. Nope: jan five.

I guess it’s fortune that Mel’s movie is being released in such an easy-to-pronounce month. I’d hate to hear the announcer have to wrap his mouth ‘round dates like “sep one” or “apr three”.

What is the point of this? Is any time really being saved by pronouncing abbreviations as if they were complete words?

Of course, this is nothing new to sports fan. Not a week goes by without an advertisement for a match like “Arsenal vee Chelsea.” At first I wondered what the hell “vee” meant. Then I realised that it was supposed to be shorthand for “versus”.

Considering that this is the country where English was invented, they do a remarkable job of butchering the language sometimes.