Link of the Week: A Pronouncing Vocabulary
Time now for another resource on pronunciation, the news announcer’s abiding obsession. For this one, you have to set your wayback machine to 1857, the publication date of Elias Longley’s Pronouncing Vocabulary of Geographical and Personal Names, available (in the public domain) through Google Books. As the name suggests, this 205 page work contains extensive lists of pronunciations for place names, then personal names, then a shorter catalog of scriptural names. Because of its long-ago publication date, the book–especially the personal names part–is useful mainly for names of note at or prior to the mid-nineteenth century. It also uses an obsolete typographic phonography system (lots...
Link of the Week: Google Translate
One of Google’s many boons to foreign reporting has been its Google Translate service. There are several ways to access it. Google searches, for example, include a “Translate” link for any website that’s detected as being in a foreign language. And if you use Google Toolbar in your browser, it will put a ‘Translate’ control bar at the top of any page you visit that’s detected as being in a foreign language (including some that aren’t really foreign). If neither of those cases apply to you, you can just go to the Google Translate page and type the URL of the foreign language website into...
Link of the Week: Measuring Worth
I now unveil one of my all-time favorite sites. It’s something I only use occasionally in my current deadline news job. But I used to use it all the time when I made historical documentaries. And you could get lost for hours just playing with numbers on the site. So with that buildup, what is it? Measuring Worth is the latest incarnation of an online calculator run by two University of Illinois economics professors. The site lets you put in a currency amount from any year back to 1774, and convert that to the value in any other year. Most commonly, you’d use it to...
Names in ledes: Famous, or not so much?
Editing stories from wire services and other outside sources often means ‘translating’ the item from the audience it was written for (Cleveland general audience, members of the military, Italians, etc.) to our particular niche audience, the LGBT community. I’ve already mentioned a few cases where I had to learn about other systems of government, or phraseology, or currency. Another translation issue that frequently crops up writing ledes is ‘to proper noun, or not to proper noun.’ In general, you should only include the name of someone or something in the lede if it is a household name to your audience. Otherwise, it’s usually best to...
Link of the Week: British Isles-Common Confusions
England, British Isles, Great Britain, the United Kingdom, Scotland… what is what, over there, off the coast of France, anyway? Americans like me sometimes have a hard time sorting out what proper name applies to which geographical entity. This brief web page explains it all clearly and concisely, with maps. Incidentally, those five names at the start of this entry all refer to distinct, but in some cases overlapping, entities.
Their system vs. ours
I’d like to say a few words about the differences between parliamentary democracies, such as they have in the UK, Canada, and most other places in the world, and presidential republics like we have in the US. I’d like to say a few words, but it’s pretty hard, because the differences are many and complex — worthy of the sort of lengthy essay one might find on Wikipedia. But because the topic comes up constantly in my work (reporting on gay-related bills passing through foreign parliaments) and because college poli sci classes seem to do an awfully bad job of explaining this stuff to students...
Mind the table
In American British journalistic prose, to “table” a bill, amendment or other measure is to offer or propose it. But in British American usage, to “table” a measure means to suspend consideration (i.e. to “shelve” it). In other words, “table” has more or less opposite meanings in the UK and America. Many an editorial ship has crashed on this particular shoal. Beware, and make sure that when you see this word, you know whether your source is British or American.
World Time on your desktop
In an earlier entry, I mentioned that I also keep track of time around the world using a desktop application. Before I forget to name it, here it is. It’s called, cleverly, World Time 6, and it’s full-featured freeware from Pawprint.net. In addition to letting you set up a floating bar with the correct time for as many time zones as screen real estate will allow, World Time also includes repeating alarms, countdown clocks, a stopwatch, and a time calculator. It works very well for me, but a few cautions are in order. PawPrint.net is just a hardworking guy in British Columbia. While he has...
‘Peer’ = Member of House of Lords
In British journalistic usage, ‘peer’ usually means a member of the House of Lords, the upper house of Parliament. Technically, of course, ‘peer’ means any one of several ranks of titled nobility, which may or may not include membership in the House of Lords. But for the most part, the UK press uses the term as shorthand for the political office.
Link of the Week: WorldTimeServer.com
Because Sirius OutQ News covers a lot of international LGBT news, we have stringers all over the world, and I constantly need to know what time it is where my correspondents are (don’t want to be ringing the phone in Melbourne at 3 a.m!). One of the tools I use to figure out the complications of calculating the time elsewhere (time zones, the international date line, daylight savings time) is WorldTimeServer.com. (I also use a piece of desktop software for my most commonly used time zones. More on that in a later entry.) WorldTimeServer provides the correct time anywhere in the world, taking daylight time,...
How much is that in real money?
One more thing about converting foreign currencies to local in news stories: Sometimes you can just convert the foreign amount and treat it as if it were local money. Soon Yen pays about a dollar-sixty to ride the bus into town every day. In other situations, where you’re talking about large cash amounts that would obviously have been transacted in the foreign currency, it’s wise to subtly signal that you’ve converted. Britain’s Royal Air Force has settled an anti-gay discrimination lawsuit, offering a payout to a former sergeant major worth more than 100-thousand dollars. The use of the word “worth” indicates that the settlement was...
Link of the Week: Economist Country Briefings
Whenever I need a quick, authoritative summary of a country’s political, economic and social system, I turn to the Country Briefings at Economist.com. In addition to a listing of recent The Economist articles on the country, these briefings include a factsheet, economic data on the country, a short history of the nation, and summary descriptions of the country’s political and economic system. Not every country in the world is covered, but the 80 or so largest are.
Citing foreign press agencies
When citing a foreign wire service, I find it best to use an English language reference. Sometimes that’s the agency’s name in translation. “Agence France-Presse” (AFP) becomes “the French Press Agency,” and “Deutsche Presse Agentur” (DPA) becomes “the German Press Agency.” Or sometimes it’s the name in the original language, with an English description tacked on: “The Xinhua state-controlled news service,” in a story where it’s already established we’re talking about China. And note that, as in the last example, it’s important to indicate with a word or two (‘state-controlled’, ‘Christian conservative’, etc.) any possible bias a news service (or other source) might have.
‘Tory’ = Conservative
A ‘Tory’ is a member of the Conservative Party in Britain or Canada. This is not to be confused with a politician who is simply philosophically conservative (small ‘c’). It only applies to a member of the Conservative (big ‘C’) Party.