Darren Barefoot
Darren Barefoot


Thinking Chaos, Thinking Fences

All speech, written or spoken, is a dead language, until it finds a willing and prepared hearer. -- Robert Louis Stevenson

26 February 2003

I have recently enjoyed a series of hilarious parodies of the "visual
guides" to surviving terrorist attacks from www.ready.gov. It made me
wonder how the technical writers and illustrators who built that site
felt. Are they flattered by the parody or deeply offended by people
making light of their (admittedly important) work?

I think it's a rare and auspicious spot to be in--people are actually
reading (even studying!) your documentation. Did the makers of those
great 1950s nuclear war public service films know that they were
creating a rich cultural vein to be tapped for decades to come?

Here are links to the parodies I've seen recently:


10:48:25 PM    comment []

Paul McFedries runs logophilia.com and wordspy.com. He's got a very popular word of the day email that features new usages. A while back, he described how the term "google" is being used as a verb. The folks at Google are notoriously strict with their trademark (they threatened us at CapeScience over GoogleMail), and they sent McFedries a cease and desist letter. McFedries subsequently posted the letter and his comments on a linguistics list-serv:

I understand what's involved in trademark protection, but "google" is an
important new verb, so I certainly don't want to delete it from the site. I
also don't want any legal hassles. Is there a response I can send to this
lawyer that will allow me to keep this entry?

This follow-up was particularly interesting, as it explains how you can't trademark a verb:

Of course google is used as a verb.  And why not?  It only makes sense, it
is short, it is fun, it works.  And what the Google (TM) lawyer knows, but
does not say, is that the company he represents cannot do anything about its
use as a verb, legally.  They cannot sue, as one cannot claim proprietary
rights to a verb.  Jesse Sheidlower recently pointed this out to me;
apparently it is an explicit part of US law re trademarks.

10:44:48 PM    comment []

© Copyright 2003 Darren Barefoot.



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