Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Welcome to Wattle Day

Today, as all Australians know, is Wattle Day. Unfortunately my Facebook group, Wattle Day Should Be Australia's National Day, peaked at 16 members last year. Never mind: what better action on Wattle Day than to join.

Wattle Day is our ideal national day - its colours (green and gold) are our colours, and the flower is found in all parts of Australia. As a national day it unites us: OK with indigenous people, and with the non-military. Wattle is our national flower, and the day was proclaimed National Wattle Day in 1992. It falls close to the spring equinox: a natural day to celebrate as the days start to get longer and brighter.

There are also wonderful, colourful Wattle Day accessories of various kinds - or just use wattle itself to accessorise. It can be found all over Australia.

You can check it all out at the Wattle Day Association website, or on The Collectors, on Friday 27 August. You can visit an official Wattle Day site or or a site celebrating the horticultural aspects of the day (and its origins in 1838 in Tasmania), the ubiquitous Wikipedia, the role of wattle as a symbol in our national honours system, and the last word from the Australian National Botanic Gardens. Truly national. And don't forget to sign up for the Facebook group.

Monday, 30 August 2010

Word of the day

Today's word is mega-aggregate. As regular readers of this blog (not an oxymoron, I hope) know, I prefer runtogethers to hyphenated words, but in this case the conjunction of two as makes this confusing - megaaggregate.

My thanks to Ex Libris, our library systems vendor, for this term. In fact they may have invented it when they developed Primo Central, a search / discovery product. I came across the word in their press release announcing the inclusion of Thomson Reuters Web of Science in Primo Central. 

Primo Central aggregates "hundreds of millions of global and regional e-resources, such as journal articles and e-books obtained from primary and secondary publishers and aggregators, as well as items obtained from open-access repositories", the press release says. And so it does. 

According to the Urban Dictionary, mega-aggregate isn't defined yet, so there is an opportunity for Ex Libris to engage in further self-promotion. According to Wordnik, there is no definition available for mega-aggregate, but they do quote two examples, both ultimately from Ex Libris press releases.

Interestingly, and despite the absence of a definition at this stage, Wordnik provides a facility to translate the word into a wide range of languages. However, this consists of using the term mega, untranslated, together with aggregate in various words for aggregation - such as mega-aggregat (Catalan) or mega-pinagsamang (Filipino).

Friday, 13 August 2010

Word of the day

Today's word is lawyer up, a verb, and thank you to Professor Rob Moodie, a health educationalist and chairman of Melbourne Storm, for the term. Rob was speaking (as a Surrey Hills resident) at a breakfast in aid of Foundation Boroondara, a charitable organisation in this area.

The term lawyer up comes to us, like so many useful terms relating to the practice of law, from the United States. Lawyer up means to equip yourself extensively with legal assistance, and has been created by analogy with terms like gear up, or saddle up.

For example, this picture with the caption "Oksana looking to lawyer up against Mel" illustrates the concept pretty well. As does this one captioned "Sandra Bullock, Jesse James lawyer up." And here is positively the shortest example of lawyering up around.

The term has been around for a while, including in Australia, and it is not all about celebrities. This article in The Age (2008), headed "Do you need to lawyer up?" illustrates the concept pretty well. (It also references a great Tex Perkins song, "Better get a lawyer.")

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Word of the day

Today's word is cognitive surplus, and thank you to Nick Gruen for the word. Not totally new (from 2009?), but new to me. There's a great piece in Wired, for example, and a new book by Clay Shirky, Cognitive surplus: creativity and generository in a connected age, published in July and reviewed in many places, such as this one by Cory Doctorow in Boingboing.

The basic idea is that there is a huge amount of surplus time available for thinking and other activity, but which has mainly been soaked up by television - perhaps a trillion hours a year, Shirky says. It is available for productive enterprises or, for that matter, something like lolcats, he says ("an image combining a photograph of a cat with text intended to contribute humour", according to Wikipedia).

You can watch Clay Shirky talk about cognitive surplus, and the concept is taking off. Naturally it hasn't won over everyone - Nicholas Carr regards the web as hastening the domination of our lives by media we consume rather than create. He gives the example of a short video showing a boy sticking his fingers in his little brother's mouth, which has been viewed 211 million times. Not to mention lolcats. But I guess Carr is saying that the cognitive surplus is being wasted, not that this must always be the case.


Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Word of the day

Today's word is sandpit as a verb, as in the expression "We are sandpitting a Facebook site for the library." It means trying something out - having a go, in the Australian idiom. Oddly, this extremely useful neologism is less used than one might have thought. Most of the uses relate to small holes in glass or other surfaces, caused by sand, or to rectangular constructions filled with sand for children to play in.

Wikipedia uses the term sandbox, and refers to its use in relation to software development. It is possible that sandbox is a US usage, although I have found it in Australia as well - at the University of New England Library, for example. Uses of the term such as that at www.sandpit.edna.edu.au have been discontinued, sadly. The sound of happy technophiles playing in the edna sandpit is no longer heard.