Well, perhaps not all of them; I’ve never been particularly good at hypobole … But a number of visitors to this edge of the Internet do take a moment to post a comment or send an email. More often than not, it’s a race between my undeservedly good friends Owen Hewitt and Francois Dumas to see who can be the first to offer some undeservedly good feedback on whatever I’ve just published.
Other times it’s just a word or several from someone that I don’t know, but who happens to have enough time on their hands to say something nice to a stranger. Every once in a while, that something nice ends up being a request for tech support, but those are uncommon and surprisingly polite. (A quick note to anyone who sends feedback or questions via the "send a message" link rather than posting them as a comment – please make sure to include your email address, because most of the time when I try to respond, it’s rejected because of your privacy settings.)
And then there are the Spambots, which are exactly the opposite of being as cool as they sound. The term conjures images of great tin behemoths with rounded corners and impossible expiry dates, lumbering through cities leaving only destruction and sticky bits of jellied pork shoulder in their wake. Instead, they’re just software, malevolently irritating little snippets of code written by malevolently irritating little snippets of people, repeatedly smearing what we used to think would be called cyberspace with their ineffectual grimy nonsense.
The prolificacy amazes me; I have to wonder if anyone, ever, at all, in the once and future history of words on the Internet, will read an article I’ve written here, see the comments posted below it, and actually buy some Viagra?
And then there are the corrections, which are often my very favorites. In my post Inattention to Detail, I publicly thanked a reader called Tom who pointed out that I had made a well-intentioned mistake of astronautical import. In reviewing my comments the other day, I came across not one, not three, but two such comments that I’d overlooked. Both of them involve my unwittingly reckless and flippant abuse of the German language, and deserve to be addressed.
The first, from someone called "derMicha", referenced a post in which I asserted that the word helicopter is the same in both English and German. derMicha’s comment reads as follows:
"You’re wrong about "helicopter". "Helicopter" in german means "Hubschrauber". Sometimes people just use the english word "helicopter" for some reason. More and more the german language gets destroyed by stupid anglicanism."
To derMicha, I offer my standard but sincere entschuldigung, bitte – I was only going by what I heard, but I enjoy your language far too much to participate in its dilution. Believe me, I’d never lazily skate by with helicopter if I knew that I had the opportunity to use a word as much fun to say as Hubschrauber! (And, since I know you’re reading this, your Most Reverend and Right Honourable Dr. Rowan Williams, 104th Archbishop of Canterbury, I am quite certain that derMicha meant Anglicization, not Anglicanism. Mea culpa, Your Grace.)
The second correction came from returning visitor Heiko Bröker. In the past, Heiko has helped keep my translation skills sharp by posting entirely auf Deutsch. I enjoy reading those posts, almost as much as I enjoy not admitting how long it actually takes me to understand them. This time, though, Heiko wrote in English, and caught me in the one of the best kinds of mistakes: the misheard lyric.
From the ubiquitous classics, like Hendrix singing "’Scuse me, while I kiss this guy" and Creedence’s timeless "…there’s a bathroom on the right", to my own insistence that Mike Hill of the Dave Clark Five was ordering "…a huge egg salad and tall steak soup" in the song The Name of the Place is I Like it Like That, a title nearly as ponderous as this dreadful run-on sentence, people have been practicing the time-honored tradition of mis-hearing lyrics nearly as long as they’ve been hearing them.
Anyway, thanks to Heiko, I know now that the song I learned in high school German class (and wrote about here) was not, in fact, Bude Jacke, but Bruder Jakob. When translated, it does seem to make a great deal more sense to sing "Brother Jacob, are you sleeping?" rather than asking the same question of something called a "booth jacket".
My ongoing thanks to people like Tom, derMicha, and Heiko for paying attention, and keeping me honest.
It’s never too late to get it right.