Monday, 15 February 2010

Word of the day

Today's word is rissole, used as a verb. This wonderful Australian usage was unknown to me until I read it in Clive James's recent book, The Revolt of the Pendulum: essays 2005-2008. James describes (page 193) rissole as "the classic Australian term, drawn from the culinary arts, for something being reduced to a wreck. (Used as a noun, the word 'rissole' denotes a kind of proto-hamburger, but used as a verb - as in 'Strewth, we've rissoled the Holden' the same word means that the machinery has ceased to work.)" The use by James is deliberate; David Free, in his review of the James book in Quadrant, leads off with the above quote.

I spent some time just looking for examples of the verb, to rissole. Most of them come from sport. For example, here's the Guardian's Lawrence Booth in 2007, quoting Kate McDonald (the Fifth Test, day one) "... there are several meanings to rissoles, etymologically speaking, and you are right, some are very rude," says Kate McDonald. "What the ABC blokes mean by being rissoled could more easily be explained as being barbecued or roasted on a spit. Barbies always come into the conversation at this time of the year, you understand. How's your apple corer, by the way?"

Overwhelmingly, the word is used in a sporting context. "If you want to get absolutely rissoled", a contributor to a Manchester United fan forum said. A piece in the Brisbane Courier-Mail by David Cohen with the imaginative headline "Spice of truth in the mince" has another example of a cricketer being rissoled. Emma Tom, in the Australian, used the word in just the same sense - to mean wiped out.

Rugby, cricket, football, horse racing, whatever - there are lots of examples, and rissoled comes across with the clear meaning that someone has been completely defeated, stuffed, skewered. It is just one example of the rich linguistic inventiveness of the sporting world, enriching us all, and James has very deliberately taken a word from a demotic context to introduce it to another world.
The best-known use of the word is by a British band of the 70s, Gonzalez, who had a song, Rissoled - you can find about it here. And poets too. There is a poem by the New Zealand poet Peter Olds, Letter to Hone Tuwhare, whih describes the old man's "rissoled boiler-maker ears." Poets have the first and last words on rissoled, and rightly so.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Word of the day

Thank you to Kim Tairi for technology petting zoo. Kim, as well as being a staff member here in the Swinburne University Library, is the Vice President of VALA. Last week was the biennial VALA Conference, a particularly important time for VALA, and for technological terms.

A petting zoo, as most of us know, is a usually mobile collection of animals suitable for interaction with young children. Hotfrog has a nice catalogue of petting zoos accessible to Victorians, and I am sure that readers in other states, New Zealand and overseas will find local suppliers as well. The Western Australian Government even has guidelines for petting zoos; there is good coverage of issues such as don'ts (kissing animals or eating their food for example, or including bats in the zoo).

Technological petting zoos receive a good deal less coverage online, unfortunately. Leafing through the WA guidelines, it is clear that a more or less completely unrelated set of guidelines would need to be created for technological petting zoos (less emphasis on handwashing, for example, and more on power outlets).

The concept of a technology petting zoo has been around for quite some time. Stephen Abrams mentioned it in a February 2008 posting. There is heaps of stuff online - 119,000 results from a simple Google search. As Beth Galloway of the Massachusetts Library Association says "Nothing bites or induces allergies - we promise." The potential content of a technological petting zoo is vast - its not just limited to pigs, chickens, goats, lambs, guinea pigs and ducks. You could start with ebook readers, but the concept extends to software as well. Here's Jeffrey Cufaude with a host of ideas. 

Something for VALA next time, or Information Online perhaps, although there were plenty of cute things to pet if you wandered around the VALA exhibition hall last week.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Civil liberties issue?

There has been a great amount of discussion lately on the new MySchool website, and an interesting piece on it in The Australian of 30 January by Justine Ferrari. It is interesting that people have not often portrayed the issue as a civil liberties issue. On one hand, recent reports such as the excellent Gov 2.0 final report have recommended that government information should be made widely available, free of charge, for anyone to use. One the other hand, for information about schools the opposite has been argued, sometimes by the same people. But surely, the issue is the very issue that we in libraries have always argued for - the free flow of information. As Ferrari points out, the information is actually available, and the MySchool website just makes it possible to compare. 

For government information, the default must be that we can have it, unless a case can be made out that this is undesirable for some good reason. The argument that we might misunderstand, misuse or or use the information for purposes that it was not intended for is NOT a good reason, in this case or any other case. It is bizarre in a free society to argue otherwise, as the Australian Education Union (AEU) appears to do in a recent press release - action taken to "ban league tables" sounds like pretty straightforward censorship to me.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Induction Processes

From a recent conference - the Golden Key Asia-Pacific Conference - one of the panel members, Anders Sorman-Nilsson, pointed out that induction processes may provide new members of staff with their first significant introduction to the corporate culture – one from which they may never recover. 

It is certainly worth thinking about induction in this light, and the relevant question is not "Did we leave anything out?" but "What impression did we leave of the kind of organisation we are?" Answers to the two kinds of questions may lead in opposite directions; an induction compliance checklist like this one, for example, may provide an impression of the organisation which, on reflection, you may not wish to be the first impression. 

Anders is at Thinque.