Occasional musings, Geistesblitze, photos, drawings etc. by a "resident alien", who has landed on American soil from a far-away planet called "Germany".

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

On designing small things

So far, I have been talking exclusively about topics that do not belong to my specific field of expertise, architecture and design—I have been talking about this stuff for 30 years of teaching and research, and I greatly enjoy the opportunity of finally being able to talk about other things that interest me. But this doesn't mean I lost interest in design issues.

This thread was motivated by a brief discussion I had, via e-mail, about the design of graphical avatars and by the longer discussion we had some days ago on an xword blog about the state quarter program of the US Mint. Different as quarters and avatars may seem, they have one important feature in common: Both are small objects, and their design is more or less successful depending on how the designer took that feature into account. I'll elaborate on this in my first comment

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Eggcorns, malaprops, mondegreens, and plain idioms

This is what a reader posted yesterday on an xword blog: "I remain impressed with how non-native English speakers adopt the language so well, yet there are always some instances of idioms that don't turn out so well. I cite a German guy from last night's dinner party who worried about throwing the kid out with the bathtub, and a former German colleague who asked for ballpoint figures...Anyone can make these minor errors, of course, but I find extra amusement when they're stated in a slightly foreign accent."

I agree, especially about the "slightly foreign accent", and the examples really made me laugh—they definitely struck a chord. Since the puzzle blog does not allow us to have more fun with this, let's do it here. For starters, I will remind everyone in my first comment of what a malapropism, a mondegreen, and an eggcorn is b/c it seems to me that much of the funny stuff falls into one of these categories— I certainly have committed sins in every one of them.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Word of the Month: Notnagel

A Notnagel (lit. "emergency nail" or "nail in need") is an iron nail carried by firefighters of old—to be used when an escape from an upper floor through the interior was blocked: It could be hammered into an outside window or door frame so that a rope could be put through the hole, allowing the endangered firefighter to rappel down to safety. Now used to indicate a last-minute substitute or remedy, a stopgap solution. I like this modern, figurative use of the term because of its association with a real and remarkable object (Source)

Note on pronunciation: Both the "o" and "a" are long and no diphthongs. Especially the "a" is pronounced like the "a" in "father", not like the "a" in "bagel". But the "g" is voiced as in "bagel".