Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Believe the Facts and not the Factoids!

Don’t believe all the content of grammar books! I’ve just been reminded that not all you read, even in an apparently factual book, is necessarily true. In fact, not all the facts contained in grammar books are actually facts, because they are not, in fact, true. Some facts are actually factoids.

A factoid, according to the Guardian, is not a small fact but is rather a mistaken assumption. For example, I learn that Napoleon, who was supposed to be a small man who sought power to compensate for his lack of height, was not small at all by the standards of the day. In those days, the average Frenchman stood at 5’ 2”, whereas Napoleon was 5’ 6” in height. It is said that the Emperor looked short when flanked by his imperial guards.

That – my mistaken assumption that Napoleon was a very short man – is what is known as a factoid.  Grammar and language books are said to contain quite a few  including the misapprehension that George Bernard Shaw once wrote: “This is something up with which I shall not put,” and once spelt “fish” as “ghoti” – hmm.

It is all too easy to believe things that simply aren't true, but nevertheless we may continue to believe them. The cure is to check your information and make sure your beliefs are factually based.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Norway puts 135,000 books online - for free

I read that the Norwegian National Library is to put more than 135,000 books online for free. The books are still in copyright and the publishers and authors will be paid for their books, says the Daily Telegraph.

The books have to have been published prior to 2000 and any conversions to digital medium must be approved by the copyright holders. Books by such renowned authors as Stephen King, Jo Nesbo, John Steinbeck and Ken Follett are included in the scheme.

Chief of the National Library of Norway, Vigdis Moe Skarstein said that the project was the first to offer free access to books still in copyright (which expires 70 years after an author’s death in Norway).

The Library made an agreement with Kopinor, which represents publishers and authors, such that for every page that goes online 0.36 Norwegian kroner (roughly 4p) will be paid to Kopinor.

Access to the website making these books available is limited to Norwegian internet users, and books are not available to download.

This might be another case of fear for the future of physical books, but seemingly sales have not been adversely affected. Instead, the feeling is that old titles are being given a new lease of life. More than 115,000 books from the collection have already been read via this medium.

Moe Skarstein said: "Books are increasingly becoming perishable goods. When the novelty effect fades out, they sink into oblivion . . . We thought that, since we had to digitise all our collection in order to preserve it for the next 1,000 years, it was also important to broaden access to it as much as possible."

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

What's Behind January?

Here is another interesting snippet of information, and a bit of Roman mythology not of practical use perhaps, but good for the inquiring mind.

We are now in January the first month heralding in the New Year. January is named after the Roman god Janus, famed for having two faces. One face looked back into the old year and the other one looked forward to the New Year.

Janus, who was named after the Latin ianua, meaning door, was favoured by the god Saturn with the gift of insight into future and past.

Basically, Janus is the god of all entrances and exits such as doors, doorways, gates, bridges, and passageways, which all symbolise beginnings and ends. Janus also represents transitional phases such as the period between adolescence and adulthood.

January is the time when we can reflect on the events of the previous year and then go on to make those important resolutions that we intend to keep forever. Probably we won’t keep them all, and perhaps not any, but we can all go forward to make meaningful changes in our lives for the coming year.