Confessions of Influence

Distorting history since 2001!

Forgive me father for I have sinned…

Way back in the dark ages of the internet (about 2001) I created a page on Wyrmworld about the Caproni CA 60 – one of the most ridiculous aircraft ever constructed. It’s still up there if you know where to look. On this page I noted that the plane was “mysteriously” destroyed in a fire after crashing and going in for repairs.

Now, the CA 60 was certainly destroyed in a fire, but the suggestion that there was anything “mysterious” about it was a humorous supposition on my part. I had absolutely no evidence whatsoever to suggest that the fire was anything but an accident, but I thought it concluded the page quite nicely to suggest that Count Caproni decided to cut his loses and run.

Now, ten years later what do I find when I do some research on the CA 60? References all over the place to it being “mysteriously” destroyed in a fire. I can’t swear that this is all down to me, but it certainly worries me when I’m lying awake at 3:00am unable to sleep.

Sort of related is this page on Wikipedia, and this website. Both mention the following definition of “Aku-Aku”…

verb. To move a tall, flat bottomed object (such as a bookshelf) by swiveling it alternatively on its corners in a “walking” fashion. [After the book by Thor Heyerdahl theorising the statues of Easter Island were moved in this fashion.]

The thing is, I made that up. It’s not as bad as the previous example because I made it up on a website devoted to the creation of new words (the now pretty much defunct, but it’s a bit of a surprise nonetheless. The Wikipedia page in particular needs some fixing, as it seems to suggest that Heyerdhal named his book after my definition of the phrase, which is completely arse-backwards and downright dangerous to history.

Even worse, I actually kinda-sorta lied in my initial definition. Although Heyerdahl did eventually theorise that the Easter Island statues were moved in such a fashion, the book Aku-Aku makes no mention of it whatsoever. Apparently no one has ever bothered to go back and check, which is of course the leading cause of 90% of popular historical inaccuracies.

Who ever knew that this internet thing could be so dangerous? ;D

Imaginary Language Relay Number One

The Fable of the Ships
(After 8 rounds of translation)

A newly wed Bride went to visit a Wizard.

“Why do we call down the stars upon our ships?” she asked

“We put the stars on our great sails as lanterns to guide our ships to safe harbour” he answered.

“What about those that sink?” she asked

“When an evil sorceror climbs to a high point to cast a spell, he throws a burning brand into the sea” explained the wizard

“Can this magic only be done at night?” asked the Bride

“If I had only a little more knowledge I would turn you into a frog!” answered the Wizard

“That would be good” said the Bride

The Great Fleet

(Original Text)

A young girl was speaking with her Great-Father.

“Why do we call the stars the Great Fleet?”

“The stars are the mast-lanterns of the Great-Parents. They shine in the night to guide our spirits home.”

“And what of falling stars?”

“Sometimes when one of the Great-Parents climbs the mast to light the lantern they drop their taper and it falls into the ocean.”

“Then why don’t falling stars appear only at dusk?”

“Don’t be too clever little one, or the Great-Parents will turn you into a seal-pup!”

“I’ll be good!”

Moundsbar Updates

There are limits to what you can do with Higgins.

Exciting news from the world of linguistics. Apparently speakers of Koro have finally been located in (of all places) India!

Koro of course is one of the Moundsbar languages, as extensively researched by Metalleus. To quote from his classic essay Moundsbar Connections.

Turning to Moundsbar, there are at least three languages related to it, Aro, Sorno and Koro. Aro is spoken by a few hundred souls in an enclave in the “Fan” district of Richmond, Virginia; Sorno has been extinct since the third century but was spoken on Guam and Saipan in the last years of the Roman Empire, though you would never know it from Roman history; no speakers of Koro have been located but a Koro language must be hypothesized to account for certain telegrams received through the years by the Moundsbarians which they were unable to read.

It now appears that these telegrams were sent from the East Kameng district of Arunchal Pradesh in India. Take that Higgins!

As the great Metalleus himself once said, in these seas of ignorance, science splashes on.

New Words

Making up words is fun!

Back in the 1940’s a Greek city planner by the name of Constantinos Doxiadis came up with some very useful words for science fiction writers. He wasn’t actually trying to help out the sci-fi field, it just happened that his terms to describe cities larger than any ever seen on Earth are exactly the kind of thing you need to spice up your space-opera epic. The words in question are “Eperopolis” and “Ecumenopolis”, meaning respectively a city that takes up an entire continent (think perhaps of Mega City One from Judge Dredd) and a city that takes up an entire planet (such as Trantor from Asimov’s Foundation series, Coruscant from Star Wars or Holy Terra from Warhammer 40k).

Now that’s well and good, but what if your city takes up more than a single planet?

At this point I’m sure everyone’s going “Well how does that work? How can a city be larger than the planet it’s on?” and that’s a fair question. A single city spanning more than one planet just isn’t possible. Unless the civilisation that built it has technology allowing cheap, reliable, instantaneous interplanetary travel. Think about it. You wake up in your apartment in Earth City, get ready for work, walk down the street to the local Portal, and step through to Mars City, where you catch a hover bus to your office. If travel between the two ecumenopoli is so quick and easy they’d function as a single entity.

So what to call such an interplanetary urban conglomeration?

I suggest an Iliopolis, from rather dodgy Greek for “Sun City” – that is a city on multiple planets orbiting the same star.

Well, that’s fine, but what if the technology can stretch to cities across multiple star systems? Well then let’s call it an Asteriopolis (Star City). A city spread across multiple planets in multiple star systems.

Beyond that it’s asteriopoli all the way down (or up). You could probably come up with a term for galaxy spanning cities, but since we don’t even have a single eperopolis yet I think the problem can wait a while. Fans of scale may want to talk about Megasteropoli for cities that span a hundred or more star systems, but that’s as far as I’m prepared to go.

Iliopolis and Asteriopolis. Use them today!


Attacking perfectly good authors for fun and profit.

I’m currently re-reading Bill Bryson’s Mother Tongue. It’s very entertaining, but if the rest of the book is as bad as his information about Australian English, well, I wouldn’t put much store in any of it.

(Disclaimer: It was published in 1990, so some of the inaccuracy can be attributed to the passage of time. But still.)

Bill confidently asserts that Australians use “labor” rather than “labour”. Well, if he’s talking about the Australian Labor Party then he’s quite correct. But if he’s talking about any other instance of the word, well, sorry Bill, it’s “labour” all the way.

He also brings up that hoary old chestnut “Cobber”. Well, I don’t know, maybe people still call each other “Cobber” deep in the hills of Tasmania (cue albinos plucking at banjos) but the rest of the country abandoned the word in about 1955. The only place you ever hear it is from tourists trying to show how “Aussie” they are, or from comedians being ironic. “Cobber” no. “Mate” yes.

Along with “Cobber”, Bill also mentions “dinky-di”. No one has used this phrase since 1982.

He also misses one of the most important and defining characteristics of regional Australian language – luncheon-meat. It’s possible to determine with reasonable accuracy where an Australian comes from based on what they call a sausage of highly processed pork. I for instance call it ‘polony’. If I was from Queensland however it would be ‘luncheon’. In Tasmania it’s ‘belgium’. In South Australia it’s ‘fritz’ and in Victoria it’s ‘devon’. This distinction is axiomic in any discussion of Australian English, but Bill makes no mention of it.

So yeah. I think that’s enough savaging of a highly entertaining book for today 🙂

PS: How could I forget one of his worst offences against the Australian tongue? We eat biscuits here not f’ing cookies!! Bah!! 🙂

Firefox Boosts World Population by Factor of Thousands

Your daily dose of Pedantry

I had reason to visit the Firefox download site the other day ( and was most impressed at their current usage statistics…

Firefox the award winning Web browser is absolutely free and easy to use. Join the over 500,000,000 million people worldwide enjoying a better and faster web browsing.

500,000,000 million people? If my maths is correct that’s about 77,000 times the entire population of the planet. I knew Firefox market penetration was good, but I didn’t realise it was that good!

Also, what the heck is a “web browsing”, and how can it be better and faster? 🙂

(Once I pointed out these issues my colleague Bevan sent Mozilla an email, so they’ll probably be fixed up soon. Probably.)

Late 2010

Actually it turns out that has nothing to do with Mozilla at all and (as discussed by New Scientist’s “Feedback” section when I alerted them to it)  they were/are actually collecting data on people visiting the page. Interesting….

Western Australian Pronunciation

Prescriptivism R Us!

The first syllable of Albany rhymes with pal, Sal or Mal. Not Paul, ball or Saul.

Castle rhymes with parcel not hassle (ok, you can probably debate that one, but the way some people – mostly Eastern-Staters – pronounce it makes me grind my teeth ;))

The first syllable of Derby rhymes with her or sir, not car or bar. This doesn’t just apply to the town, it extends to sporting events (such as the Western Derby) and probably even to the hats – if anyone had any reason to discuss them.

Exmouth is pronounced Ex-mouth not Exmuth as it would be in England.

Fremantle can be pronounced as either FREE-man-tle or fre-MAN-tle but is often just FREE-oh.

Joondalup is JOON-da-lup not joon-DAR-lup.

Mandurah is MAN-ju-ra not man-JUR-ra.

(Yes, the pronunciations would be much more precise if I used the IPA, but this post is a rough guide aimed at the general public who wouldn’t recognise the IPA if it danced around in front of them wearing a shirt reading “Hi! I’m the IPA!”. So there! :))

(Also: Woooo!!! Post 600!!! :))

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