bookmark_borderComplexli, our company

As I’ve mentioned before, Phyllis and I have for some time had plans to get a company of our own.

It’s been a busy week, what with getting the office ready and getting the web site up and running.

But finally we’re ready: Let us introduce you to Complexli Limited, our company to sell computational, lexicographic and linguistic services.

Please do get in touch if there’s anything we can do for you!

Please get in touch also if you might be interested in working freelance for Complexli.

bookmark_borderBye to Collins

My old office
Originally uploaded by viralbus

Seven years ago, I was still living in Aarhus and was looking for a job, when I noticed the following email on the ling-tex mailing list (a very specialised list about TeX/LaTeX for linguists):

Date: Wed, 09 Jan 2002 13:42:14 +0000
From: Paul Boot 3267 Systems Manager To: “” Subject: Ling-TeX: Interested in working with dictionaries?

Collins dictionaries are looking for an experienced programmer/linguist
to join their team in Glasgow. If you have 3 or more years experience in C++, Perl, Unix, (Solaris) systems and especially if you have knowledge of typesetting solutions on a Unix platform, it could be you we’re looking for.
You will need to be a fas-paced and team orientated, able to work happily with linguists and lexicographers and to adhere to deadlines. In the first instance send your CV and covering letter explaining why you want this role to….

I thought that sounded more interesting than the jobs I had seen in Denmark, so I decided to apply.

I had no money at the time, but fortunately they paid for my flight and hotel to go to the job interview, so there was no reason not to go.

I guess the interview went well, since I got the job at the salary I asked for, and I moved to Glasgow and started my new job as analyst programmer in March.

For the first few weeks, I was sitting alone in a tiny cubicle, but soon they moved me to a double cubicle that I was to share with a lexicographer called Phyllis.

Soon we started talking, and we’re now married with a daughter.

Working at Collins has changed a lot over the past seven years. The cubicles made way for an open office, the MD changed two years ago, the department changed its name and remit from Collins Dictionaries to Collins Language, and lots and lots of colleagues and friends have left in successive rounds of redundancy.

And today was then my final day there. Phyllis of course left months ago, so in some ways it’s just going back to the good old days of sharing an office with her.

We’re planning to start up our own company, but I’ll blog about that separately in a few days’ time.

bookmark_borderHalfway through?

Collapsing Bank
Originally uploaded by grainofsaltjd

So much has been written about yesterday’s disastrous budget that I don’t think there’s much point in writing more about it. I just can’t wait for Labour to be thrown out!

All the budget coverage has taken the attention away from some other developments, however.

For instance, Edmund Conway had an interesting blog posting a couple of days ago, about how the IMF has written a report on how the balance sheets of the world’s major banks would look if they were to get back to lending again at more or less the rate they were in the pre-crisis days.

A few quotes:

The simple truth is laid out in page 33 of the Global Financial Stability Report, published today in Washington: “if banks were to bring forward to today loss provisions for the next two years, before expected earnings, US and European banks in aggregate would have tangible equity close to zero.” In other words, the entire global banking system would be bankrupt – kaput – if its institutions immediately wrote off all the toxic assets still sitting in their vaults without any government assistance.


But it underlines one simple but undeniable truth: that this recession is different. It is the consequence not of a simple one-nation housing crash or a consumer slowdown but a catastrophic collapse of the financial system. And with that system still in a wreck normal service will simply not be resumed without more costly bail-outs – or else we must accept the consequence that money will be far more expensive to borrow in the future, and that economic growth will be far less in the future.

To anyone with a keen sense of history this should hardly come as a surprise. The 1930s were marked by periods of optimism before reality set in again. The IMF’s verdict may also take a while to sink in, but here it is, laid out in table 1.4 of the report: we aren’t even halfway through the bank bail-out. Gulp…

bookmark_borderGreen on black

Black spaghetti and homemade pesto
Originally uploaded by PhylB

I made some homemade pesto for lunch the other day.

We served it with some black (cuttlefish ink) pasta – didn’t it just look cool?

Anna loved it, but Ann (my mother-in-law) wasn’t brave enough and referred to the “black worms”. Her loss. 🙂

Interestingly, the pasta was quite nauseating on its own, but combined with the pesto it was really nice.

bookmark_borderMetrification now!

I’ve blogged about metrification before, but I’ve now come across the subject twice in the past 24 hours.

Firstly, I brought a book called Measuring America: How an Untamed Wilderness Shaped the United States and Fulfilled the Promise of Democracy to London yesterday to have something to read in the airport. I thought it was mainly about how the American states were measured, but it turned out to contain several chapters about metrification. I wouldn’t call it pro-metric, but I thought I sensed a degree of metric fatalism, that is, a sense that even the US will one day go metric.

And then today, I came across the website of the UK metric association. It’s good to see there are people out there campaigning for the UK to give up its bizarre mix of imperial and metric.

Do go to their site and read the arguments, and consider joining!


It’s a well-established principle when using IPA for phonetic descriptions to declutter the transcription by leaving out anything that can be predicted using knowledge of the language. (“It is better to state such information in the conventions that accompany a phonetic transcription rather than in the transcription itself.”)This is absolutely fine in a monolingual context, but I think it falls over to a certain extent elsewhere.

For instance, when giving the original pronunciation of a borrowing in a monolingual dictionary, the IPA is often simply copied from a bilingual dictionary. That is, the pronunciation of ‘Champs-Elysées’ might be given as /???z elize/, which is fine if you know French IPA conventions, but not otherwise. Where does the stress go – equally on each syllable, or will one syllable get more stress? Is the /e/ to be pronounced [?] as in English? Is the /l/ light or dark?

Or going the other other way, if the word ‘tell’ was taken into French, giving it pronunciation as /tel/ would indicate [t?el] rather than [t???].

Surely in this context it would be better to use precise IPA.