Friday Oct 02, 2009

Words Fly on Wings of Lightning

A provocative line in a song I have known since childhood declares, “Time flies on wings of lightning. We cannot call it back … ”

Based on an embarrassing social networking experience I had yesterday, I think we could safely paraphrase: “Words fly on wings of lightning. We cannot call them back!”

It all started when I noticed a comment from a prolific tweeter from London:

if you are retweeting something from google in order to get a wave invite then you are a <deleted>. and so are they. that is all.

Since I had just done that abominable thing, I quickly looked up <deleted> in the dictionary and posted this tweet:

Just learned a new word:  <deleted> = contemptible person; jerk.  Based on Twitter commentary, I must be one. :)

When that tweet reached Facebook, it triggered a small avalanche of comments.  It was great to see a friend speak up and say:

you are definitely not a <deleted>.

It was also nice to hear from a young man who used to live next door, but whom I haven’t seen in many years: brother calls me a <deleted> all the time. I'm glad to get a definition on that.....sort of.

But I started to wonder what I had done when an acquaintance suggested:

Tip: Don't have this conversation with anybody from the UK.... :-) … It has a very specific meaning across the Atlantic, one that is best left unexplained on a public forum :-)

What had I done?  I quickly dug a bit deeper into the meaning of <deleted>, only to find he was exactly right.  I shouldn’t be using such language in a global forum.

Well, words had flown on wings of lightning.  I even tried to call them back via Twitter:

Actually, when I looked into it, it is definitely British slang that is not used in polite company.  Oops!

And later:

Lesson learned today: Be very, very wary of repeating slang used by a tweeter from another country.  Could be very embarrassing.

It was heartening to hear from some friends who obviously had a chuckle, but questioned my motives at first:

Whew! I frankly was a bit surprised to see the Mark Dixon I know using that term. We all learn something new every day!

Yeah Mark, I was gonna jump in and say something, but then I realized i have no business correcting anyone's language.

LOL, I was wondering when you'd figure that word out. ;-)

Well, I have been painfully reminded again that we must be very careful about what we sling out into cyberspace.  Words do indeed fly on wings of lightning!

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Friday Mar 20, 2009

More Twitter Clouds and Fascinating Games

In response to my post yesterday about clouds of followers at Twittersheep, Mark Kolb (@outwitme) sent me a link to his site, OuTWITMe, that has, among other fun and games, a cool three-dimensional cloud of major words found in the most recent tweets of a user you specify or Twitterverse at large.  Poking around the swirling cloud and following the train of consciousness it engenders is a stimulating experience.  The two-dimensional snapshot posted on this blog doesn't do justice to what Mark has provided.

Elsewhere on the site are some fascinating Twitter-based word games that appear to have the potential to be absolutely addicting to a word geek like me:
"Outwit Me is your home for a variety of unique Twitter games that have been specially crafted with artificial intelligence. You are here to be challenged, entertained, stimulated. We are here to engage your mind and of course to outwit you."
With names like Tweet Quiz, Tweet Words and TWord Chains, these games all played through Twitter and appear to not be trivial. It appears that some really intellectual activity is happening north of the border, where the governing philosophy is "to present intelligent challenges for tweeters with some time on their hands."

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Sunday Mar 02, 2008

Sesquipedalian Predisposiiton

"Words, words, words" said Hamlet, in response to Polonius' question, "What do you read, my lord?"

I love words. Their meanings and origins fascinate me. That a few written symbols or brief intonations in verbal conversation can convey powerful concepts or subtle nuances of meaning is a remarkable testament to the intricacies of the human intellect and richness of our culture.

One of my favorite daily email subscriptions is the Visual Thesaurus Word of the Day. I enjoy spending a few moments each day reading about the meaning and origin of some new, obscure word. Last week, up popped a new word that was sublime in its apt description of itself.

"Sesquipedalian" means, literally, "given to using long words." It was derived from the Latin word "sésquipeda-lis" = "measuring a foot and a half." Quite descriptive of itself, don't you think?

So yes, I do have a predisposition to using "foot and a half" long words. In the words of my daughter Heidi, who also suffers from the same malady, "Why use a long word when a diminutive one will do?

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Discovering Identity was founded on in May 2005 as a means of documenting my exploration of the field of Identity and Access Management. In February, 2010, I switched to hosting the blog at In March 2012, I began posting Oracle-related information in both places.

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