My friend Barak Sh says:

… probably around 99.9% of the world’s population already knows that you should “press ESC to exit full screen mode” in YouTube. Isn’t it time to stop showing this extremely annoying message?

I would probably disagree and say that assuming such a thing about 99.9% is too bold, but…

I’m teaching my father (62) to use the Internet. I had to explain him many times what is spam, what are tabs in the browser, what are links, how to write a subject in an email and how to save email attachments to a local folder. Very simple things, but he’s still not so sure about most of them.

But he immediately understood that pressing ESC exits full-screen mode in YouTube! And he applied this knowledge to (nonstandard).

So he’s probably not too far off the mark.



A friend wrote me an email in Hebrew with a technical question about Google Box.

Google Box? That’s a Google service that i haven’t heard about. I heard about I’m feeling lucky, Site search, GMail, Maps, Product Search, Scholar, Buzz, Books…

Oh, Books. (If you’re into general linguistics, you may call it “scanning the paradigmatic axis in slow motion”.)

Hebrew has several spelling standards. None of which is actually used consistently by the general public. The root cause of the confusion is that the Hebrew alphabet only has consonant letters and the vowels are marked by a set of separate signs called “vowel points” or “niqqud” (also spelled nikud etc.; transliteration of Hebrew is also very inconsistent in actual practice). The vowel points are rarely written at all. It doesn’t mean, however, that the vowels aren’t written at all. Some consonant letters are used as vowels, albeit in a rather peculiar way.

For the sake of simplicity i’ll just say that in the most common type of spelling the vowels /u/ and /o/ are both spelled with the letter vav (also called waw). The same letter also marks the consonant /v/, but more often it is a vowel. With the help of rather wondrous intuition most Israelis, when reading, understand whether it is /u/, /o/ or /v/ according to the word, without giving it much thought. It becomes problematic when foreign words need to be transliterated into Hebrew: The English words “box” and “books” are transliterated as, more or less, “bwqs”.

It is possible to discriminate between the two, by using a point from the niqqud system: A point inside the letter vav means that it is to be read as /u/, and a point above it means that it is to be read as /o/. There is no way to type it on the common Hebrew keyboard, however. Or, more precisely, there is a way, but the key combination is very tricky and there’s no drawing on the keyboard that hints at it, so most Israelis don’t know that it is possible. And when you don’t know that it’s possible, it’s as good as impossible.

I’d like to change that. I’d like to make the vowel points available to the general public using computers. So that not only professional book editors will be able to use them, but everyone. So i’m working with the Israeli Institute of Standards to revise the standard keyboard.

Until i’m done, try reading the Wikipedia articles Holam and Kubutz and Shuruk.


IMDb listing for Inglourious Basterds has this in the “goofs” part:

Incorrectly regarded as goofs: SPOILER: Though Melanie Laurent’s character’s first name is spelled Shosanna, the various characters throughout the film pronounce her name “Shoshana”. Most notably Col. Landa when he shouts “Au Revoir, Shoshana!” as she runs away after her family is killed. In fact, the character’s name is clearly spelled “Shoshanna” in the portfolio carried by Col. Landa and which he uses for a checklist for the Jews hidden in that home. The discrepancy between the spelling in the film’s credits and the spelling/pronunciation in the film itself can only be explained as deliberate. (One may speculate, considering that the Hebrew name Shoshana is spelled with one ‘n’ while both in the movie and its credits it is spelled with two, that the misspelling in the credits is alluding to the term “hosanna” (what appears after the initial ‘s’) which is a classical religious reference to the concept of salvation and/or the messiah, which may be seen in the culminative role of this character.)

There’s a mistake here. Can anyone spot it?