Convoluted, Devoluted, Or Just Engblish?


Maybe I've been asleep for the last few months, or just head-down working on my current project, but it seems I am the only person in the world who wasn't aware that a new version of Windows was on the way. Well, the only geek anyway. I don't mean the "Mojave" stunt - I mean what is currently referred to only as "Windows 7". And, rather strangely, my first thought when I read about it in a UK computer magazine was "Wow! Has there only been two and nine-tenths other versions since the Windows 3.1 that we all knew and loved?" That introduction to millions of the Windows world of GUI seems so long ago now...

Other stuff that followed closely in terms of mind-springing was probably even less the kind of thing that the marketing department would hope for. I couldn't help seeing misty visions from the past of the Austin 7 and, of course, Blake's 7. But no doubt there is already a selection of swish names being brain-stormed in the palatial offices of the "Let's get out there and sell it!" brigade. Seeing as everything these days is "Web 2.0" and "Community-driven", maybe they'll hold a competition and let the winner choose a name. I'd be no good at that. I could never figure why they called Vista "Vista" (if you see what I mean). I thought it meant "Goodbye until we meet again", as in the film Terminator, until I discovered that the "Vista" bit means "seeing". I guess that makes sense because my Vista laptop is the first one I've ever had with a built-in camera (even if there aren't any Vista drivers available than can make it work).

So, anyway, this computer magazine asked users what they wanted to see in Windows 7, and one of the top answers was support for the local culture and language. Yes, they mean "proper" English with all the missing letters reinstated or changed round into the correct order. They want a "Favourites" menu and a "Security Centre". And maybe even the Queen's English as well - how about: "One is asked to wait patiently during the processing of the current request...". I suppose that would mean they'd need to make all the dialogs bigger, but it would be rather nice to have a polite computer. "Excuse me, but it does seem as though there is a recently-arrived email message awaiting one's prompt attention."

Of course, it wouldn't stop there. I mean, doesn't anybody else realize that there is no such country as "UK"? England is a country, as is Wales, Scotland (and, I guess, is Northern Ireland). Yes, there used to be a "United Kingdom" (about 300 years ago), but now that the Scots have got themselves devoluted, and the Welsh are part-way there, it's hard to see how we are still "United". I, as thousands of other people do, refer to my country by its real name - even to the extent of chancing my luck at U.S. Immigration by putting "England" on my visa waiver form!

Wandering off topic, it seems that Wales is actually a new standard measure of area. When you want to amaze people with how big something is, such as the size of an Australian sheep ranch or the area covered by Lake Superior, you quote it as multiples of the size of Wales. As in "Did you know that Lake Superior is four times the size of Wales?" Don't believe me? See sizeofwales.co.uk.

The other option, which I can live with, is "Great Britain". I like the sound of the "Great" bit, even if we aren't really that important in world terms these days, and it's handy for doing TV programs and stuff like a list of the "Great Britons" of history. And, of course, we do have our own language/culture code "en-gb" which just goes to reinforce this (so, Windows dev guys, you ain't got an excuse for missing us out). Maybe to save confusion they could incorporate the culture code and call it "Engblish" instead?

And if "gb" is the accepted term for Great Britain, when are all the Web sites in the world going to fix their address entry list boxes? If they can't be bothered listing all the countries, we should at least be "Great Britain" instead of "UK". I mean, they list other countries using the proper name, or at least a translation of it. The culture code for Spain is "es" for "España". And I'm sure that China isn't called "China" in Chinese (why would it have the culture code "zh" if it was?). OK, so I could look it up, but I probably don't have the right keys on my machine to type it here anyway. Oh, and while we're talking about China, did anyone realize that the number 7 in China is supposedly related to anger and abandonment...? (see Travel China Guide.com).

Still, I suppose the "name of my bit of the world" thing happens on a smaller scale as well. Here in Engbland, many years ago, they decided to steal lumps of East Yorkshire and Lincolnshire and rename them North Humberside and South Humberside. The rumour at the time was that the Government needed to justify building a bridge that cost hundreds of millions and went from a major coastal city to nowhere in particular (or maybe the posh folk in the East Riding of Yorkshire just wanted rid of Kingston-upon-Hull). Of course, nobody took any notice and kept writing their address as "Yorkshire" or "Lincolnshire". After a while, South Humberside got renamed again to "North Lincolnshire". I wonder how much money all that wasted?

And now, horror upon horror, they want to move Lowestoft from Suffolk into Norfolk. I assume they mean moving the county boundaries, not actually packing the town in boxes and loading it onto a big truck. Question is, will the genteel people of Norfolk be able to cope with a town so famous for being the place that created "The Darkness"..? Come back Justin, we want more.

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