17 February, 2011


Pedant's corner, in which I get very picky indeed

In this piece at Kent Online, in which a juvenile act of casual soft graffiti is hyped up into an insinuation against the EDL, we read
Slogans including “kill Muslims” “keep Britain British” and “EDL” - the acronym for anti Islamist group the English Defence League - have been scratched into the moss on Jade’s Crossing in Detling.
By soft graffiti I mean that the "damage" was as casual, impermanent and almost as easily removed as someone tracing "I'm dirty, wash me!" in the coating of grime on the side of an unwashed white van. As non-stories go, this is almost on a par with the famous if possibly apocryphal local newspaper report of a house being broken into and a packet of 20 cigarettes stolen, or the shocker about the elderly lady who slipped while getting off a bus but was unhurt.

Some passing toerag who has heard of the EDL scrawls something gratuitously offensive in the gunk which has accumulated on the metalwork of a seemingly rather neglected footbridge. Said toerag may or may not be a member of or understand the aims of the EDL. If the story carries any weight at all it is in that it reflects the growing undercurrent of anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant sentiment among the lower orders.

The number of reader comments below the line (60 as of this writing) is also noteworthy in this respect. I shouldn't bother wading through them if you don't have as much time on your hands as I do; they're the usual mix of shouty polarized viewpoints fairly evenly split between pro and anti, including at least one Godwin.

(Note to Godwinists: our grandparents' (in my case parents') generation did not embark upon the Second War in order to combat Nazism and Fascism. They did so — well, apart from the fact that they were told to do so and had little practical choice in the matter — they fought as part of an ongoing geopolitical struggle between the various tribes of Europe to settle unfinished business left over from the First War and the Great Depression.)

But enow, let's get our pedantry fix.
“EDL” - the acronym for anti Islamist group the English Defence League
OK, I'm being a wee bit pernickety here. As the relevant Wikipedia article points out, there is a certain amount of accepted looseness in the terminology, but in my book "EDL" is not an acronym, it is an initialism. An acronym is an abbreviation which is conventionally pronounced as if it were a word in its own right, thus SCUBA (self-contained underwater breathing apparatus) which is pronounced "scoober" rather than "S-C-U-B-A". If EDL were generally pronounced "eedle" or "eddle" it would at least arguably be an acronym. But it's pronounced "E-D-L" so it's an initialism.

A minor point to be sure, but one expects professional writers, even the monkeys working for the Kent Messenger group, to at least attempt to meet standards of precision. If you're uncomfortable with "initialism", chaps and chapettes, use the more general term "abbreviation" instead.

Mind you, I'm one of those infuriating bastards who pronounces "SQL" as "sequel", rather than using the officially sanctioned "S-Q-L". I think I'm right, 'cos the original IBM project was called SEQUEL, an acronym for Structured English Query Language. So there.

Some what off topic, but imagine the media hysteria if the guilty parties had been English (and only the Metro report gives a clue to who they were):

Vile Racists Attempt to Murder Brown Baby

Sadly there was insufficient space in the Guardian for that story.

And there always will be.

I used to work with a chap, born in Malaya but of a fairly dark-skinned Indian heritage, who suffered from severe vitiligo. He's probably gone completely white by now.

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