A weblog by Will Fitzgerald

Monthly Archives: June 2007

Google web translation dictionary

This is nice: in addition to automated translation, Google has now added  translation dictionaries, for English to Spanish, French, Italian, German and Korean, and back again.They seem a bit dated: no translations for “weblog” or “telecommute” or even “google.” But it does have “computer virus.”

Unicode fixed (I think)

When I brought my weblog data over, I neglected to ensure that the underlying encoding was correct. I think I’ve fixed this. I should now be able to write Arabic (يونِكود) and Persian (یونی‌کُد) and Hangul (유니코드) and Cyrillic (Юникод) and Cree (ᏳᏂᎪᏛ) and Middle English (ye bisshop baythes hȳ ȝet wt bale at his hert) and Old English (Hwæt! wē Gār-Dena in geār-dagum) and whatever pleases my ❤.

to cat

It’s always fun to see what obscure meanings of words show up as I do my work. Today’s obscure word is the verb “to cat,” meaning “to vomit.” According the Grose’s 1811 Dictionary of Vulgar Tongue, here are some other ways to say “to vomit:”

  • to cast up one’s accounts
  • to flash the hash
  • to pump ship
  • to flay
  • to shoot the cat, to cat
  • to cascade

A British colleague, when I asked him whether ‘to cat’ meant ‘to vomit’ in Britain, suggested it might be an Australian term, because, he said, they seem to have more words for vomiting than anyone else.

Great Father's Day

Hmm, the text of my Father’s Day post is gone … sufficient to say that I had a great Father’s Day. My son Mark took me out to Foreign Cinema, a very nice restaurant in San Francisco, where they show foreign films on a drive-in-like screen, but indoors. The food and the conversation were great.

New host

I’ve moved my website to a new hosting server (Slicehost), and I’m happy so far. Now I can recommence blogging…

Opposite of perquisite

I’ve glad Marti Hearst is writing for the Powerset blog from time to time. She’s written a nice post about antonyms (‘Opposites attract’), pairs of words which are ‘opposite’ in meaning.

I also enjoy reading The Atlantic’s Word Fugitive column, in which people are asked to come up with new (almost always humorous) terms for things and events. For example, “the moment of undignified vulnerability that people in airport security lines feel when they have to take off their shoes.” (Suggestions included ‘shoemiliation,’ ‘having cold feet,’ and ‘desabotage.’)

This month’s column asks for “a word for unpleasant occurrences that come with a job, even though they are not in the official job description, for example, when a hotel bellhop doesn’t get tipped or when a comedian gets heckled. In other words, what is the opposite of a perquisite?”

It’s kind of my job to answer questions like this — our search engine won’t come up with funny answers of course (well, they might be funny, but it’ll be for alll the wrong reasons). I was curious whether simple co-occurence statistics for ‘prequisite’ might reveal either synonyms or antonyms. So, here are the top fifty nouns, in which ‘perquisite’ or ‘perquisites’ appears within four words, according to Google’s Ngram data.

46 benefits
40 philly
21 fees
18 value
16 compensation
14 wages
14 salary
12 allowances
7 privileges
7 company
6 remuneration
6 profits
6 office
6 fringe
5 tax
5 roger
5 rebates
5 programs
5 incentives
5 corporate
4 valuation
4 tds
4 robocop
4 right
4 present
4 pietasters
4 jobs
4 gift
4 facilities
4 emolument
4 culture
4 ceo
4 benefit
4 accounts
3 term
3 stock
3 seniority
3 salaries
3 privilege
3 possessions
3 poison
3 perpetuity
3 pay
3 newspaper
3 modeling
3 mindstate
3 members
3 loan
3 incident
3 housing

Some of these, like philly and roger are clearly proper nouns, perhaps names in Philly law firms. There are lots of related terms, which are not quite synonyms or antonyms, like ceo (someone who has perquisites) or programs (which perquisites might be a part of). But there are cool words which are specific perquisites (or perhaps ‘sister terms’ for perquisites) (wages, salary, stock). And some things that are pretty close to synonyms: benefits (and fringe benefits, but we are only looking at single words), allowances, privilege(s), present and gift. Some of these have pretty clear antonyms: benefit/cost, privilege/responsibilities, gift/dues. And there is something that look very much like an antonym: tax.

So cool–just doing a very, very rough count gives us lots of related words. (Not quite sure what to do, though, about robocop and newspaper).

I actually have an antonym in mind for perquisite, if by ‘perquisite’ it is meant as a special or gratuitous benefit of a job. It’s what I often think of as shit-work. I’m sure the Atlantic readers will come up with something more elegant.

Powerlabs coming soon redux ….

Powerlabs coming soon It looks like Powerset (my company) is officially signing people up for Powerlabs, which is set to open in September, according to a message sent from our COO, Steve Newcomb, to his linkedin buddies.

Powerlabs won’t be fully operational until September, but we will need beta testers. If you want the chance to be the first to get the scoop on Powerset, sign up now. Hint: Tell us if you blog and we will send you early announcements.

"Google keeps tweaking its search engine"

NY Times article:

Google keeps tweaking its search engine.

Fav quote:

[H]owever easy it is to wax poetic about the modern-day miracle of Google, the site is also among the world’s biggest teases. Millions of times a day, users click away from Google, disappointed that they couldn’t find the hotel, the recipe or the background of that hot guy. Google often finds what users want, but it doesn’t always.