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The Oxford English Dictionary has announced this year’s “Word of the Year”.  Every year they pick one that has been made popular, coined, or otherwise come to the attention of whoever is on the committee and announce that it is an amazing word.  This year’s Word is…

Omnishambles.

Yes, really.  It means something which appears to be a shambles no matter which direction you look at it from.  While it’s not the worst word I could think of, it certainly doesn’t scream “Word of the Year” to me.  Mind you, it’s better than some of the others on the shortlist.  See if you can match the following words with their definitions:

“Eurogeddon”               you only live once
“mummy porn”            using a computer and TV at the same time
“green-on-blue”           a derogatory term for the lower classes
“to medal”                    a financial problem in a certain part of the world
“second screening”      to win a medal
“Yolo”                            a genre inspired by 50 shades
“Pleb”                            military attacks by neutral forces

The thing that strikes me most is how many of these potential “Words of the Year” are not, in fact, words.  Three of them are phrases, one is an acronym, and one is a contraction of a longer word.

I’m also amused by the fact that most of them I hadn’t heard even once before they occurred in this article.   Perhaps I don’t watch enough TV.

 

Short Martian Aside

From here:

It is at the base of this peak that the rover expects to find some of the most interesting rocks during its mission, although it will be many months before it gets there.

The rover is expecting things now?  Why did nobody mention it was sentient?

 

Putting Children Off

Teachers are concerned that children in primary schools (that’s age 5 to 11 for those from foreign parts) are being put off reading for pleasure by the time they reach the top end of their school.  74% of teachers polled said that children did not spend enough time reading outside of the classroom.

The article also gives some guidance on what types of stories those readers are likely to enjoy – action, crime, fantasy, horror and adventure.  No surprises there then.

Another ariticle on the BBC talks about the low literacy rate in Welsh secondary schools (that’s age 11 to 16).  Apparently, most of them can read – although up to 40% start secondary school unable to read “properly” – but not fluently enough to really apply the skill in other subject areas.  I only hope that the literacy co-ordinators that they will be appointing have read the first article and don’t limit themselves to actions in the secondary schools!

Teaching Reading

A third article examines the system of Synthetic Phonics, which is the current government-approved method of teaching reading.  Phonics is contraversial, as some believe it doesn’t teach children to “read” but to “decode” writing, which is less fluent.  Not only that, but

The books that have been devised in order to support synthetic phonics offer a restrictive diet, says Lambirth.

So here we have a contraversial system for teaching reading, with a limited selection of books that they can use to learn with.  No wonder children aren’t learning to read for pleasure.

One of the contraversial things about it is the use of made-up words to test whether children can decode properly.  Children will be asked to read words such as “terg” or “thazz”.  It might confuse some children, but it does provide an early look at reading scifi… maybe they could include “grok”.

Some Thoughts

Clearly more, better books are needed for children in all age ranges.

Not only that, but books which are phonics-friendly will likely get used more in schools, at least in the UK.  If you’re planning to write something for children, it’s a good idea to do some research.  How are children taught to read in your country?  Are there any special considerations you should think about because of that?

Enhanced humans.  Superhumans.  Mutants.  Whatever you call them, they are much more powerful than us.  When there are enough of them to form a society, inevitably they will have a name for us.  Here are a selection:

  • Norms
  • Muggles (Harry Potter)
  • Mundanes
  • Deaf (for telepaths)
  • Monkey-boys (Men in Black)
  • Outmodes (Robots)
  • Mud People (Artemis Fowl)
  • Mud Monkeys (Supernatural)
  • Man Animals (Battlefield Earth)
  • The Retarded (Alastair Reynolds’ Revelation Space)
  • Clumsies (Disney Faries)
  • Sheep

Can you think of any more?  Leave them in the comments.

We’ve all come across them.  Practically every science fiction novel since the 80s contains them in some form or another.  No spaceship is complete without them.  They go by many names.  Here are just some of them:

  • Datapad (Star Wars)
  • Data Slate (Warhammer 40k)
  • PADD (Personal Access Display Device) (Star Trek)
  • Infotab (Shortened from Information Tablet)
  • Datacard
  • Pocket Computer (Asimov’s “The Feeling of Power”, Niven and Pournelle’s “The Mote in God’s Eye
  • News Pad (Clarke’s “2001, A Space Odyssey”)
  • Dynabook (Alan Kay – but this one isn’t fiction)

Can you think of any more?  Name them in the comments!

The Author

Nicola Higgins is a 30-something martial artist who runs two Brownie packs and works full time. She somehow still finds time to write.

Her favourite genres are near-future and alternate world science fiction and fantasy.

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