Thursday, July 23, 2009


Here’s a riddle for all you brainiacs: Q. What is a banano?
A. Exactly the same as an ordinary banana, only one billion times smaller.
I know, banano, bah no-no! It’s one of my nerdier jokes, but after a long day’s editing of a long, long book (did I tell you this book is looong?) nano nonsense is all my nerdy birdy brain can come up with. So this week’s episode is going to be entertainment, short and sweet, and no harder on the brain than a… now tell me, what rhymes with sweet?

Talking of Twitter, have you heard about the two 19-year-olds at the University of Chicago who are retelling the Great Works of Literature in nano episodes 140 characters long. Their book Twitterature will be published in Autumn 2009. I read about it in an article by Jim White in the British paper The Daily Telegraph (my nice neighbour gives me his copy when he’s done with it and, as an incorrigible wordaholic, who am I to turn down this free read)(admittedly I skip the gory Tory bits).

The article is headed Bloke goes bonkers pursuing whale and in it Jim White has Twitterised some famous books. Here are a few of my favourites:

“Group of teenagers adopt incomprehensible jargon, drink milk and discuss Beethoven before terrorising the community. All society's fault.”
“Hero constantly spied upon by someone claiming to be older sibling. When he complains, finds himself with head in cage of rats.”
“Conscientious female farmer, ignoring claims of every decent bloke around, is seduced by disreputable soldier. Sheep don't much like it.”
“Wild-eyed, bushy-haired fellow on moors causes havoc with local females. If you haven't time to read it, listen to song of same name.”
“Sharp-toothed aristocratic night owl shows interest in local girls. Sales of garlic in nearby market go through roof. Stakes big seller too.”
Can you guess which books these Tweets refer to? Feel free to drop me a comment if you want to have a go at the answers. Which reminds me, someone called pedanticKarl left a nice comment on my post about about his favourite philologist, HotForWords (Sex symbol, June 4), otherwise known as Marina Orlova.

Back at the HFW site pedanticKarl noted my use of the friendly term ‘Dunglish’ which many language pro’s working in the Netherlands use to describe ‘English writing with a Dutch accent’. He suggested that Dunglish might be a candidate for HFW’s Nerd Word of the Day. I had a quick butcher’s at what has already been given the HFW nerdy treatment and really liked Weisure, a blend of work and leisure meaning free time spent doing work or work-related tasks, and Attachmeant meaning an e-mail you have to resend because you forgot to add the attachment the first time. This is something I have to do sickeningly often. If only the pain would fade faster than a nanosecond.

Which brings me neatly on to this Slate V mockumentary on the next big thing in nanoblogging. Have a look at...

Fluttery footnote
If you haven't got time to revise your text to fit in a Tweet, just 140 it and voila! These guys will do it for you. Ever wondered why texts are limited to 140 characters (160 actually; Twitter reserves 20 characters for the user's name). Find out right here.

Finally, here's one of the nerdiest jokes ever published by a British newspaper. The Guardian announced on April 1, 2009 that it had a "mammoth project under way to rewrite the whole of the newspaper's archive, stretching back to 1821, in the form of tweets. Major stories already completed include "OMG Hitler invades Poland, allies declare war see for more"; and "JFK assassin8d @ Dallas, def. heard second gunshot from grassy knoll WTF?"

The article continues: "Sceptics have expressed concerns that 140 characters may be insufficient to capture the full breadth of meaningful human activity, but social media experts say the spread of Twitter encourages brevity, and that it ought to be possible to convey the gist of any message in a tweet."

Read the full story right here and don't forget to comment below if you know what the Tweeted book titles are. Cheers!


  1. What's it going to be then, eh?...teenagers drinking milk!

    head in a cage of rats? Must be the book that inspired abu ghraib, never read it though

    Could be one of two movies, cold mountain or somersby, or are the sheep the clue to some obscure kiwi novel?

    heathcliff, it's me, kathy...

    glad to be vlad.

  2. Re: teenagers drinking milk -- beats eating oranges to make you ready for a bit of the old ultra-violence, that's for sure.

    Re: rats, no you're off (i think), tho book may indeed have inspired prisoner abuse. Clue lies in older sibling...

    Re: movie... nearly there. A film was madde of this book, starring an American actress whose surname begins with an S, contains EE and ends with a P but no, it isn't Sheep.

    As for the last two, you're right on the nail (no mi-stake about it): one Kate in the hand is worth two Vlads in the bush.