Archive for March, 2008

No excuse, no explanation: just Dorothy…

March 26, 2008

Fuck, fuccant, and … you wot?

March 25, 2008

The OED has updated several words, including “computer” and “fuck” as detailed in the newsletter of March 2008 on revisions

But… what on earth is a “xxkxzt pg ifmk”? According to the “code” (which hides what OED believes marks the first printed example of the rude word) the trick is to replace each letter with the previous letter in the alphabet.

That would make it “wwjwys of helj” – not a word in common usage. Maybe, they’re using a different alphabet?

Here’s the extract in full:


This entry entered the OED in the first volume of its Supplement in 1972.

The term (along with alphabetically related words) perhaps confront lexicographers with the most significant challenges of the current release.

First of all, fuck is a taboo word in English, and this has affected how regularly it appears in print. Its relative absence from the record presents issues in terms of describing its history.

The history begins in murky circumstances. The previous edition of the OED found the verb at the beginning of the sixteenth century, in texts which (for bibliographical reasons) now need to be redated to the middle of the sixteenth century. Nevertheless, this is a term about which scholars have made significant discoveries in recent years, and it is now possible to reassert an early sixteenth century date, with indications that the word is earlier.

The earliest evidence found so far is in Latin, and comes from a manuscript presumably written in England and dating from 1500 or slightly earlier. But the text is a) in code and b) in a mixed Latin-and-English context:

Non sunt in cœli, quia gxddbov xxkxzt pg ifmk.

The string ‘gxddbov’ can be read by replacing each letter with the one before it in the alphabet (i.e. ‘fuccant’). This has a Latin third-person plural ending. This usage implies but does not show the pre-existence of the word in English.

The first definite evidence for the word, then, comes from a manuscript in Oxford (MS Brasenose College, Oxford VII), dated 1528.

The use was discovered recently by one of the OED’s regular correspondents. In this case we have the English adjectival form, which implies use of the verb.

Fuck presents a number of other issues for the lexicographer. In terms of documentation, the absence of the word from most printed text before the mid twentieth century causes quotation difficulties.

When the term or its associates do appear they are likely to be masked to avoid scandal or prosecution. Quotations which derive from recent editions of earlier texts need to be rechecked as far as possible in their earliest available form. It is not acceptable, for example, to cite D. H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover from a modern edition on the assumption that the word is present in the first edition (in this case the quotation used was checked in a copy of the 1928 edition, privately printed in Florence).

Several of the relevant texts cited in the OED’s revised entry have proved hard to track down (or bibliographically complex, or both), but wherever possible we have attempted to cite from contemporaneous documents.

The use of asterisks to mask the word is also problematic lexicographically. Whereas we might be happy to accept ‘f—k’ in the right context, how much less certain might we be of ‘f—’? And sometimes there is no letter at all to clarify what has been omitted (‘—’). In each case the editor needs to weigh whether the quotation is allowable.

The entries for fuck and related words have been considerably expanded since OED2 (1989). There the number of meanings and associated verbal phrases under the verb amounted to six. In the revised entry for the verb there are thirty-five components, showing a significant expansion of meaning and phrasal patterning (mainly from the mid twentieth century onwards).

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Laying carpet: how to fit those gripper strips!

March 15, 2008

I wish I’d read this page before I started. What I did read was a Guardian DIY pamphlet which was nowhere near clear enough.

In “Covering Your Ground: Carpet Installation” the author gives much advice on selecting and “taste” – and then gets down to the important bit:

Laying the Underlay The first step is to install new tackless strips. (They’re gripper strips in the UK). Tackless strips are wood or metal strips fastened to the floor near the walls of a room. They contain either two or three rows of pins on which the carpet backing is stretched and secured.

The page continues:

“They’re called “tackless” because they eliminate the need for tacking carpet from above. Cut a length of tackless strip to fit each wall. Nail the strips around the perimeter of the room. Allow a space between the wall and each tackless strip that equals roughly 2/3 the thickness of the carpet (using spacers makes this easier).”

That’s the bit I wish I’d read!

“Fasten the strips to the floor with masonry nails if installing over concrete. The pointed pins in each strip should always face the wall. The strips should also meet each other at the corners with no gap.”
Next, lay the underlay pad.

The role of the pad is to improve underfoot comfort, absorb impact on the pile and accommodate imperfections in the floor. It also helps with sound absorption and thermal insulation. Underlay pads are available in felt, foam and rubber, and your retailer can advise on an appropriate material based on your carpet selection. Cut the padding in strips that fit the length of the room. Each padding strip should cover the tackless strips. With the “waffle” side facing up, lay out the underlay, stapling along its edges, just inside the perimeter of the tackless strip, every 5 to 6 inches. If the pad is going over concrete, you can cement the pad in place. The edges of the pad should butt together to form an even seam rather than overlap. Trim away any excess underlay that covers the tackless strips and cover all seams with duct tape.

We then move onto the important bit: Carpet Installation

Cut pieces of carpet that will join together to cover the floor 4 to 6 inches longer than the room’s actual dimensions. After measuring the carpet, flip over the excess and trim it to fit. Use a utility knife to trim the carpet, cutting from its backside. Use a cutting board and a straight edge to guide the cut. The carpet should overlap the walls or edges of the room on all sides to allow for trimming.

Here we get a lot of stuff not relevant for my purposes, and then, back to the nitty-gritty:

To attach the carpet at the edges, you’ll need a carpet Knee Kicker. This tool ensures a snug fit at walls and corners, but be aware that it can be pretty tough on the knees. Starting in a corner, hook the carpet to a tackless strip. Sink the teeth of the Knee Kicker into the carpet about an inch from the wall. Then kick the cushioned end of the Knee Kicker to push the carpet forward and fasten it to the tackless strip.

At this point, I found I was staring at a rumpled carpet.

OK, it was an old carpet, and the main reason it’s rumpled, is that I folded it up, and the folds are pretty permanent. My fault. But I knew the next bit:

You’ll need a Carpet Stretcher to finish the installation.
Once one corner is fastened, use the Carpet Stretcher to pull the carpet to the opposite wall. A Carpet Stretcher is especially critical for continuous lengths of carpet of more than 10 feet. Put the base of the Stretcher at the corner where the carpet is fastened. Use a piece of scrap carpet to pad the wall. Sink the teeth of the Stretcher into the carpet at the opposite wall, about 6 inches from the edge. Press the lever on the Stretcher, pulling the carpet into the unfastened corner and attaching it to the tackless strips. Then use the Stretcher to fasten the corner opposite from the first corner installed.

I went to the hire shop and asked for a carpet stretcher. Mistake! What they will give you, if you do this, is the short tool that this web site calls a Knee Kicker. As the picture shows both of these tools you can see how different they look, and how utterly different they are in function!

Once all the corners are fastened, work your way around the room, stretching and “kick-fastening” the carpet along the walls, alternating sides and corners.

He continues:

A knee-kicker is not very expensive, but a carpet stretcher can be,  and it may not warrant an outright purchase for a one-time job.

Yeah, but they don’t sell carpet stretchers here in the UK; if you ask for one, you’ll get a knee kicker.

Which doesn’t do the job of ironing out those folds.

I also screwed up the gripper strips. I read the DIY pamphlet as saying “leave a good two inches between the gripper and the wall.”

As this picture shows, the idea is to have the edge of the carpet wedged between wall and gripper, so the gap has to be less than the thickness of the carpet – and you whack it into the space with a tool that looks very like a masonry chisel.

I now have a rumpled carpet, a kicker hire charge of nearly twenty quid, and very, very sore knees! What I should have done, say all my friends, is call in a professional but I did that… long story, no happy ending.

What I would do next time, I think, is make my own carpet stretcher. A long, stout pole, two by two, and a shorter, similar, would make a great lever. Make sure they both fit in the space between the kicker and the opposite wall, but with a foot or so too much length. Push the longer one against the kicker pad. Lift the other end up, and wedge the shorter one between the long one and the wall. Push down hard!

I’ll let you know…

Check in at Covering Your Ground: Carpet Installation before you get started. Oh, and practice on old carpet, and then go out and buy the new one!

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But where is the wiki?

March 13, 2008

You can have your own IRC server, apparently. Instructions are

here at mibbit
where they explain:

  • Create a channel on (Follow the howto guide on the wiki).
  • Grab the HTML code to use on your website
  • Paste the HTML into your website

But as you can see, WordPress doesn’t like the code…

Here it is:

But in answer to your question: the wiki is here.

try this:
Your chat on (popup)


It doesn’t work, does it?

You’ll have to do it manually until I find out what WordPress is doing to suppress popups, or until I find another way of doing without popups. remains the URL, and to chat to us all, you’ll have to look for “other” in the servers.

And if you then enter


you’ll get the chance to join the Mousehole and chat to my mates Hank and Guy and a few others in channel #kewney

Hope you can be arsed…