Tuesday, March 29, 2022

a short interval where I interpret the internet

Same as last time, just a few follow-up thoughts after the last book review

Firstly, I follow Flags Mashup Bot on Twitter because I have a nerdy fascination with flags (I follow a few map-related accounts for a similar reason). Basically that account produces flags of imaginary countries by combining the colours and names of two existing countries and their flags. Here's a thing they came up with a couple of days ago:

One for the coincidence OR IS IT files (the answer as always being: yes; yes it is). It turns out the Ul Qoma flag is a fairly regular featuree as an ingredient; presumably there's just a database of flags that the bot randomly chooses from. But (and I'm sure you're ahead of me here) in what sense is there actually a flag of Ul Qoma? 

Fortunately for the purposes of this post, and also for the theory that 90% of Twitter interaction is just bots interacting with and retweeting each other, there is a counterpart bot called Original Flags Bot which replies to each of the mashup tweets with images of the original flags. The Ul Qoma one is the one on the left. 
A bit of Google image searching turns up this page which seems to suggest that the flags (there is a Besźel one as well, though it doesn't seem to be in the mashup database) were cooked up for the 2018 TV adaptation, which is the explanation that makes the most sense, on reflection.

Another thing I noticed from reading The City & The City was the regular use of the word "interstices"; it's a good word and describes the notion of unseen things lurking in unsuspected spaces pretty well, this being one of the novel's major themes. I think most people know how to pronounce "interstices"; emphasis on the second syllable, in-TERSE-tiss-eeze. What was less familiar to me was the use of the singular form of the noun. Challenge number one here is: what even is the singular form of "interstices"? I think if you'd asked me a couple of weeks ago I would have said: actually I dunno, is it one of those words ending in "x" that gets an "ices" in the plural form? Like, say, "matrix", or "index"? So maybe the singular form is "interstix" or "interstex" or something like that? Not a completely ridiculous thing to imagine, but, as it happens, wrong: the singular form is "interstice". But how are we saying that? Surely not in-TERSE-tiss-ee? But, equally, surely not IN-terst-ICE either?

Well, it turns out it's in-TERSE-tiss. I think this is counter-intuitive for a couple of reasons; firstly that I still have the residual sense of saying something like "matrice" or "indice" which would be obviously wrong, and secondly that most three-syllable words that start "inter-" have the emphasis on the first syllable rather than the second, like "interview", "internet", "interval", "intercom", and so on. "Interpret" is the only other obvious example I can think of of such a word where the emphasis falls on the second syllable.