May 08, 2003

A Different Time

There once was a time when the Canadians had the fourth largest army in the world and were loyal allies of their southern neighbor. But recently, dumb national defence strategy and dumber international politics have reduced both to shreds.

Because of the political calculations of their civilian leaders, Canadian commanders at Central Command were frozen out of vital planning during the run-up to the Iraq war. And now there's this:

Canadian soldiers are back in Afghanistan, but this time, they don't have any weapons to help protect them. In Ottawa's rush to put Canadian troops on the ground, 25 elite Canadian soldiers arrived in Afghanistan only to find that they are not allowed to carry guns. What makes the situation particularly embarrassing is that the troops have been assigned German bodyguards to protect them.

Posted by campbell at 10:10 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Oxford Comma and Other Trivia

Who would know better than Oxford? What is the 'Oxford comma'?

The 'Oxford comma' is an optional comma before the word 'and' at the end of a list: We sell books, videos, and magazines.

It is so called because it was traditionally used by printer's readers and editors at Oxford University Press. Sometimes it can be necessary for clarity when the items in the list are not single words: These items are available in black and white, red and yellow, and blue and green.

Some people do not realize that the Oxford comma is acceptable, possibly because they were brought up with the supposed rule (which Fowler would call a 'superstition') about putting punctuation marks before and.

I like that "which Fowler would call a 'superstition'." Just the right note of haughtiness from the Oxford Dictionaries.

There is some interesting reading over at the Ask Oxford web site. The word origins pages cover "codswallop, lukewarm" and other gems, although it disappoints by mostly saying that the common beliefs on the origins of most interesting terms are not very credible. Ah well, there go all those bar bets.

One word I had never heard before is nous, pronounced "nouse":

It appears in our dictionaries of current English, such as the New Oxford Dictionary of English (1998), where it is labelled 'British informal' and defined 'common sense; practical intelligence'. In philosophy, it means 'the mind of intellect'.

Guess I'm not running in circles where common sense or the mind of intellect abounds.

Posted by campbell at 01:16 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack