bookmark_borderThe orthography of Danish was changed today

The orthography of the Danish language is regulated by Dansk Sprognævn through their official orthographical dictionary, “Retskrivningsordbogen”.

Any revisions take effect as soon as a new edition is published, so if you’re keen to spell correctly, you have to learn the changes immediately.

The changes introduced today include the following:

  1. Abolishing alternative forms that correspond to pronunciations that aren’t used any more:
    • Baskerlandet or Baskien > Baskerlandet
    • federal or føderal > føderal
    • langust or languster > languster
    • taifun or tyfon > tyfon
    • øjelåg or øjenlåg > øjenlåg
    • roastbeef or rostbøf > roastbeef
    • billiondel or billiontedel > billiontedel
  2. Abolishing simplified spellings of loanwords that haven’t caught on:
    • croquis or kroki > croquis
    • håndmikser > håndmikser or håndmixer
    • jogurt or yoghurt > yoghurt
    • krep or crepe > crepe
    • majonæse or mayonnaise > mayonnaise
  3. Introducing an alternative ending -ie for some words ending in -ium:
    • kriterium > kriterie or kriterium
    • ministerium > ministerie or ministerium
    • sanatorium > sanatorie or sanatorium
  4. Abolishing simplified spellings of native words that haven’t caught on (I’m personally very unhappy about these changes!):
    • elleve or elve > elleve
    • tredive or tredve > tredive
    • drøbel or drøvel > drøbel
  5. Bizarrely, merging two words that in my idiolect have different pronunciations and different meanings:
    • sauce > sauce or sovs
    • sovs > sauce or sovs
  6. Messing about with the hyphens in some compounds:
    • e-mail-adresse > e-mailadresse
    • stand-up-comedy > standupcomedy
    • play-off-kamp > playoffkamp
    • roll-on > rollon or roll-on
    • built-up-tag > builtuptag
    • tagselvbord > tag selv-bord
    • T-bone-steak > T-bonesteak
    • a-våben-fri > a-våbenfri
    • DAMP-barn > DAMP-barn or damp-barn or dampbarn
  7. Introducing some optional instances of -t in some adverbs (which actually comes as a surprise to me — I thought -t was already allowed here):
    • gladelig > gladelig or gladeligt
    • klogelig > klogelig or klogeligt
    • unægtelig > unægtelig or unægteligt
  8. Making it possible to drop the space in some compound prepositions when followed by a complement. The space was never allowed when the prepositions occurred without a complement (e.g., han fulgte bag efter/bagefter manden, but han fulgte bagefter (not *bag efter):
    • bag efter > bag efter or bagefter
    • bag i > bag i or bagi
    • inden for > inden for or indenfor
    • neden under > neden under or nedenunder
    • oven på > oven på or ovenpå
    • ud over > ud over or udover
    • frem for > frem for or fremfor

    Interestingly, many compound prepositions still don’t allow this freedom. For instance, in the following four sentences it is not allowed to write *udaf, *optil, *udefra and *opad:

    • De har altid haft svært ved at komme ud ad døren i ordentlig tid.
    • Plæneklipperen kører op til 4 timer på en opladning.
    • Ude fra gaden lød der et stort brag.
    • Vejen gik stejlt op ad bakke.

    I’m pretty happy about some of the changes, whereas some of the others are annoying me. However, I need to learn the new rules so that I can spell Danish correctly if I need to, even if I might defy the rules on my blog.

    (PS: Don’t ask me about the photo — it was the only result I got when I searched for Retskrivningsordbogen on Flickr.)

bookmark_borderThe bizarreness of US politics

US Congress Building
Originally uploaded by prameya

Although in general I’m a big fan of the US constitution, there are at least two areas that I find absolutely mind-boggling crazy, and I would change them tomorrow if I could:

  • Gerrymandering: In the US, politicians design constituencies themselves (instead of leaving the design to independent experts such as the boundary commissions in the UK), and the results are atrocious. The effect is that very few constituencies are competitive, which isn’t good for democracy. At the very least, the US should create independent boundary commissions, but ideally they should introduce proportional representation to ensure that every vote counts.
  • Supermajorities: In many cases, supermajorities (such as 60%) are required to pass legislation, especially in the Senate:

    The filibuster is a tactic used to defeat bills and motions by prolonging debate indefinitely. A filibuster may entail long speeches, dilatory motions, and an extensive series of proposed amendments. The Senate may end a filibuster by invoking cloture. In most cases, cloture requires the support of three-fifths of the Senate; however, if the matter before the Senate involves changing the rules of the body – this includes amending provisions regarding the filibuster – a two-thirds majority is required. In current practice, the threat of filibuster is more important than its use; almost any motion that does not have the support of three-fifths of the Senate effectively fails. This means that 41 senators, which could represent as little as 12.3% of the U.S. population, can make a filibuster happen. Historically, cloture has rarely been invoked because bipartisan support is usually necessary to obtain the required supermajority, so a bill that already has bipartisan support is rarely subject to threats of filibuster. However, motions for cloture have increased significantly in recent years.

    There are already plenty of checks and balances built into the US political system, so requiring supermajorities just causes the whole system to grind down to a halt. Apart from constitutional amendments, a simple majority really should be sufficient.

I’m sure there are many more oddities, but if only they would fix these two issues, I’m sure it would make a big difference.

bookmark_borderIf the EU was like the US

EU Map
Originally uploaded by Cea.

Although I’m often very critical of the US, I’m a big fan of their constitution.

So while we’re waiting for the results from the presidential election, I thought it’d be interesting to imagine how the EU presidential election would work if the EU had imported the US political system wholesale.

The EU Senate would consist of two members from each member state, so 54 members in total (there are 50 members of the US Senate).

The EU House of Representatives would have 435 members (see below for details), just like its US equivalent.

The Electoral College for the EU presidential election would have as many electors for each state as the two above figures combined. For instance, Denmark would have five members of the House of Representatives and two members of the Senate, so this member state would have seven presidential electors. Brussels DC wouldn’t technically speaking be a state, so it wouldn’t be represented in the two houses, but it would nevertheless have three electors.

Using the algorithm for calculating the apportionment for the House of Representatives that is used in the US would lead to the following figures for the EU, using the most recent population figures:

State House of Representatives Senate Electoral College
Austria 7 2 9
Belgium (excl. Brussels) 8 2 10
Brussels DC 0 0 3
Bulgaria 6 2 8
Cyprus 1 2 3
Czech Republic 9 2 11
Denmark 5 2 7
Estonia 1 2 3
Finland 5 2 7
France 55 2 57
Germany 71 2 73
Greece 10 2 12
Hungary 9 2 11
Ireland 4 2 6
Italy 53 2 55
Latvia 2 2 4
Lithuania 3 2 5
Luxembourg 1 2 3
Malta 1 2 3
Netherlands 14 2 16
Poland 33 2 35
Portugal 9 2 11
Romania 19 2 21
Slovakia 5 2 7
Slovenia 2 2 4
Spain 40 2 42
Sweden 8 2 10
United Kingdom 54 2 56
Total 435 54 492

(Whereas the most populous EU member state — Germany — would have 73 electors, the largest number in the US is California’s 55 electors.)

To become president, a candidate would thus need to get one more than half the 492 electors, or at least 247 electors.

Interestingly, it’s quite feasible there could be a draw (for instance, Austria, Belgium, Brussels DC, Cyprus, Denmark, France, Germany, Romania, Slovakia and the UK against the rest would add up to 246 electors on each side), in which case the House of Representatives would choose the president, and the Senate would choose the vice-president.

bookmark_borderʔ > C igen

Autumn leaves
Originally uploaded by PhylB

Da Léon var lille, skrev jeg her på bloggen flg. om hans udtale:

[H]an har problemer med stødte konsonanter, så her udvider han stødet med et homorganisk lukke: and, blomst, seng, ild og nej udtaler han [‘æn?d], [‘l?m?b], [‘h????], [‘il?d] og [‘naj?d].

Da jeg tilfældigt faldt over dette gamle indlæg, gik det op for mig, at jeg havde glemt at blogge, at Amaia gør præcist det samme (eller rettere gjorde, da hun stort set er holdt op med det nu, men hun fylder også tre i januar).

Fx udtaler/udtalte hun vand som [‘væn?t] (helt forskelligt fra Annas [‘wæn?]), nej som [‘naj?t] og hund som [‘hun?t].

Jeg ville ønske, jeg kunne huske flere eksempler, men disse tre ord er vist de eneste, hvor homorganiske lukke ikke er forsvundet igen.

bookmark_borderThe Swiss capital of the European country

The political class in Westminster tend to look at the UK from a London perspective, and to listen especially to the needs of the City of London (i.e., the big financial institutions). Most of the British media exist in the same bubble, which is why so many topics are being discussed as if everybody in the country was making a very comfortable living working in a multinational bank in London.

This became abundantly clear again yesterday, when a majority in Westminster voted to force the UK government to demand an EU budget cut, which is surely another small step towards the Brexit. In other news yesterday, it was noted that the regional divide is growing within England, and Scotland was fully preoccupied with the question of Scottish membership of the EU.

The problem is that London is to a large extent a global Switzerland, and as such EU membership isn’t necessarily such a good idea — a Swiss solution vis-à-vis the EU and lots of bilateral free-trade agreements would probably suit London best.

On the other hand, the rest of the UK is probably not that different from most of Europe, and although we can save Scotland through Scottish independence, I do fear for the prospects of the north of England if London takes the (r)UK out of the EU.

I often think that independence for Greater London would solve even more problems than Scottish independence, but alas it’s not on offer.

The current state of affairs is a bit like if the Switzerland and France had formed a union at some point and had moved the capital, the company headquarters, the politicians and the media companies to Zürich, with the result that both parts of the union were being run based on what was best for Zürich. I doubt most of France would have flourished in such a scenario.