30 June 2007

phonological constraints in bracketology

i haven't posted in a long, long time. this past week it's because i've been growing roots in front of my tv and computer watching Wimbledon all day every day. (it's the first time i've had a chance to watch opening round coverage, and my goodness, if you're a Wimbledon fan like me and my family, it will consume your soul.)

anyhow, the Wimbledon singles draws are some of the largest single-elimination bracketed tournaments that i know of, as both the gentlemen's and ladies' singles draws start with 128 competitors. despite the rain delays which England is prone to this time of year, we're approaching the start of the fourth of seven rounds of the singles tournaments. if you run through your powers of two, you'll discover that in the fourth round there are 16 players remaining. in the fifth round, there will be 8 players remaining.

but the fifth round isn't ever called the fifth round, because the nomenclature for tournament rounds works from both ends. the seventh round will be contested between two individuals for the championship, but we call it the finals. then working back up the bracket there are the semifinals, quarterfinals, and so on.

but really "and so on?" not in English. but yes in other languages. i'm most familiar with Italian, in which the rounds in tournaments are referred to (in reverse order from the finals) the finale, semifinali, quarti di finale, and ottavi di finale. but following the same model in English, what would we call the fourth round of Wimbledon? the eighthfinals--gross! nobody likes two fricatives next to each other. so it's the fourth round, round of 16, or even the sweet sixteen, unless you're a purist who doesn't use that term except in the month of March.

09 June 2007

omit needless...

today's Pearls Before Swine takes Strunk and White's infamous "omit needless words" doctrine to its limits:

so be sure to omit needless...whatever. because if you don't, your speech and writing will be unclear and people will think that you're uneducated. omit needless concerns that people (and goats) will think you're crazy and not want to be around you if you adopt this policy.

take that, ZYZZYVAS!

zzyzx originally uploaded by brhino!
credit to my friend Brian, who found this sign on his road trip back to the west coast and snapped the picture. i almost have to believe that whoever named this "road" did so solely to make sure that it was dead last alphabetically. and it certainly beats out ZYZZYVAS, the alphabetically last entry in the Scrabble OWL4. and it actually has a semi-practical pronunciation...at least i would say [ˈzɪz.ɪks].

so i guess this gives an answer to the old "what's in a name?" question: whatever orthographic folly you want, if all you're naming is a dirt path in the middle of nowhere.

[update: sigh, i guess there's a wealth more of information on this place, as well as a number of other things inspired by the name. and it's not pronounced how i thought either, although i think the actual pronunciation goes somewhat against my orthography-phonology intuitions (although admittedly, English is just completely screwed up and such intuitions generally mean very little). ah well.]

04 June 2007

alleged until proven guilty?

there seems to be some new shift in the use of allegedly in journalistic reporting, beyond what has already received attention in the past over at Language Log. apparently now to have "allegedly" done something means that the action in question is still under some sort of investigation, regardless of the provability of whether it occurred. take this quote from a report on the UEFA website about this weekend's Euro 2008 qualifying match between Sweden and Denmark that was abandoned by the referee:

German referee Herbert Fandel abandoned the Group F qualifier in the closing stages with the scores level at 3-3. He had awarded a penalty to Sweden and given a red card to Denmark's Christian Poulsen when a spectator came on to the pitch and allegedly assaulted him.
if you don't regularly follow European football (or if you weren't stuck in an airport watching CNN Headline News, which covered the story three times in an hour), i offer you the following clip. perhaps the matter is still under investigation (both by UEFA and police), but i see no "alleged" assault taking place here. it seems more clear-cut than that.