Category Archives: Linguistics

Design: Time Bandits vs. Doctor Who

I don’t know why I missed this for so long, but catching the tail end of Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits on television including the end titles, I was reminded not just of the map, the central device throughout the film, but the design of the map.

And with fresher eyes, I noticed the similarities between the map’s design and the re-imagined Gallifreyan written language on the revived series of Doctor Who. It’s a good thing the artists working on Doctor Who took the time to focus on the language of the Time Lords, as the classic series did a horrible job with the task. Watching the show as a kid, I remember coming up with some kind of story why the language looked like Greek and/or mathematical equations.

The new Gallifreyan written language is based on circles (let’s invent the word circumography — or are they circumglyphs?), similar to the Time Bandits cartography. Here’s a screenshot of the map from the film next to an image of Gallifreyan writing.

Time Bandits vs Doctor Who

What do you think? Is there a similarity? Would you even say that Doctor Who ripped off the design of Gallifreyan script from Time Bandits?

Words I don’t like, part III.

Big Data.

While this series is called Words I Don’t Like, today’s subject is a phrase. So much for literal accuracy.

Big Media has been trying for years to instill in the American populace a subtle form of megalophobia. Big Government is intruding into our lives, and we don’t want that. Should we be scared of Big Data?

Companies and industries are now using Big Data either to find ways to better serve their consumers or to exert power and control over those same consumers. Companies have been collecting data on the public for many years, but the availability of cheap storage and processing power has made it much easier to handle large amounts of data.

Data accumulation has been increasing, and today’s consumers are, more than ever, willing to provide personal information, whether knowingly or unknowingly, in return for the use of services and products.

Information is information, regardless of the size of the set. Calling data big is not descriptive  of the size, but it does put the idea in the reader that the data sets are powerful.

When we use a cell phone, for instance, a database is created of every location. We trust the mobile phone companies to keep that information private, but they don’t. Not only can the company use that information to analyze patterns of travel, but they have shown that upon request they will turn that information over to the government.

The minute-by-minute location data for every mobile phone user is a pretty big set of data.  But unless you’re trying to convince a reader of the possible tyranny of data — by those who own or have access to it, not by the data itself — then just stick to the word data.

Strike that. Just stick to data in all cases and retire Big Data.

Words I don’t like, part II.


Although I’ve never considered myself an entrepreneur, that seems to be what I’ve become.

It’s my own impression of the word. Checking WordNet, there’s no sense that implies anything negative about entrepreneur, but somehow hearing the word has always stirred up the sound of fingernails on a chalkboard in my inner ear.

Entrepreneurs are sleazy. Entrepreneurs are scammy. When they hustle for a buck, it’s a buck taken from someone who doesn’t realize it was a buck that could have stayed in the pocket. They eschew education in favor of street smarts and deride the concept of broadening knowledge.

Entrepreneurs rely on instinct rather than careful consideration. They take credit for their success and pass blame for their failures.

But an entrepreneur is just a business owner, a starter. Of course this isn’t how all entrepreneurs behave, but it’s the impression I get when someone uses this word as a self-description.

I’ve always been a starter, rarely a finisher. Ideas flow through me like other things that might flow through someone, and in the event I actually initiate one of these ideas, there’s a possibility, a small probability, that the idea might succeed.

I’ve undertaken — or entreprit — many internet-related projects over the years. One became, to me, an unbelievable success. I guess that makes me an entrepreneur, but I’m not happy about it.

Words I don’t like, part I.


The word mastermind is a new business word, and I am loath to discover that I’ve been involved with the concept without knowing it.

One day each week, with exceptions, I speak with two of my colleagues: two entrepreneurs who have experienced some of the same business developments I have experienced, namely building blogs, turning them into businesses, and selling said blogs to larger companies for a sum likely unimaginable several years prior.

During this discussion, which takes place using Skype, we talk about upcoming projects, both shared and individual. We discuss strategies for doing interesting things. We dominate the world.

Or perhaps we will someday.

And all this time, we’ve been participating in what some people seem to want to call a mastermind group. Have we mastered the complexities of the human cranium and the neurons within? I don’t think so.

Mastermind seems to imply some kind of auto-idolization, a sense of inflated self-worth, faux-grandeur. It’s not accurate. But say mastermind group and other entrepreneurs know you mean a discussion including brainstorming sessions and internal idea-pitches. Throwing concepts against a wall to see what sticks.

Say mastermind to anyone else and it sounds ridiculous.