Aug 182011

Give linguists 140 characters and they’ll predict whether you’re a guy or girl two times out of three.

“Remember when the Gay Girl in Damascus revealed himself as a middle-aged man from Georgia? On a platform like Twitter, which doesn’t ask for much biographical information, it’s easy (and fun!) to take on a fake persona but now linguistic researchers have developed an algorithm that can predict the gender of a tweeter based solely on the 140 characters they choose to tweet. The research is based on the idea that women use language differently than men. ‘The mere fact of a tweet containing an exclamation mark or a smiley face meant that odds were a woman was tweeting, for instance,’ reports David Zax. Other research corroborates these findings, finding that women tend to use emoticons, abbreviations, repeated letters and expressions of affection more than men and linguists have also developed a list of gender-skewed words used more often by women including love, ha-ha, cute, omg, yay, hahaha, happy, girl, hair, lol, hubby, and chocolate. Remarkably, even when only provided with one tweet, the program could correctly identify gender 65.9% of the time. (PDF). Depending on how successful the program is proven to be, it could be used for ad-targeting, or for socio-linguistic research.”

This result follows a recent spate of articles in the mainstream media arguing that language reflects how you think. While emphasizing cultural rather than gender divergences, some of this research suggests profoundly different worldviews. For example, the Pormpuraaw people of aboriginal Australia speak of “my southwest foot” instead of “my left foot.”

Oct 012010

I was really hoping this story would turn out to be a hoax, but it doesn’t seem to be. Could the SarcMark be the smallest possible particle of intellectual property — the quark of copyright? Will this development lead to a whole new trade in pirated punctuation marks? via Byline pinkushun writes “SarcMark is a copyrighted punctuation mark, that claims ‘It’s time that sarcasm is treated equally!’ Pretty damn cheeky while they’re charging for their software, which only inserts their punctuation through a hotkey. Open Sarcasm is destroying SarcMark by advocating a new punctuation mark (not displaying here properly — alt+U0161) as the new open and free sarcasm symbol. Either way, this will be one interesting turnout. With bad unicode support across the web, displaying the characters properly might be an issue. PS Left out sarcastic end sentence as Slashdot doesn’t display the U0161 character.”

Aug 312010

Facebook owns the “book”, media mogul Rupert Murdoch owns the “sky”. George Orwell was right that our language would shrink with time, except that it’s thanks to corporate trademarks rather than totalitarian government. Then again, we have the government to blame for the legally imposed monopoly that is copyright… via Byline Facebook is suing a little-known website for educators called Teachbook, claiming Facebook literally owns the -book when it comes to naming social networking sites. via Byline Crudely_Indecent writes “Not content to own just news stories, Rupert Murdoch is now going after individual words! His BSkyB is fighting a legal battle with Skype, claiming that it owns the ‘Sky’ in ‘Skype.’ From the article: ‘A spokesman for Sky confirmed that the company has been involved in a “five-year dispute with Skype” over trademark applications filed by the telecomms company. These are, the spokesman added: “including, but not limited to, television-related goods and services.”‘”