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On 26 November Shelf Awareness for Readers brought us the news that Cambridge Dictionary‘s Word of the Year 2021 is “perseverance”. In light of the fact that it’s Oxford towards which everyone directs their eyes for news of the year’s word, it shows admirable perseverance to offer up the Fenland choice yet again.

Merriam-Webster plumps for “vaccine” and Oxford itself (intent as they are on becoming ever hipper) opts for “vax”. provides an international round-up of words of the year. They tell us along the way that the tradition started in Germany in 1971 when the Gesellschaft für deutsche Sprache (German Language Society) chose the first Wort des Jahres, which was aufmüpfig, an Austrian/Bavarian word meaning refractory. This year’s word for them is Wellenbrecher (breakwater), which only makes sense once you understand that this is the word used in Germany when reporting on anti-Covid regulation.

Well, you can’t pretend you’re surprised that we have a color of the year can you? Printing Impressions breaks the super-exciting news that

“Pantone has revealed its 2022 Color of the Year: Very Peri, a bluish purple that Pantone says “displays a carefree confidence and a daring curiosity that animates our creative spirit.”

“As with every other year, the Pantone Color of the Year is a hue that the Pantone Color Institute believes encapsulates the general theme or feeling of society going into the year. Previous years have touched on changing gender norms and contrasting feelings during the pandemic.

“This year, Pantone says that Very Peri “helps us embrace this altered landscape of possibilities, opening us up to a new vision as we rewrite our lives.”

And here it is.

Very Peri

Feeling carefree confidence and daring curiosity?

I’ve only once before noted this important event, in 2014. Here are recent colors which have brightened your life:

Copyeditors can never rest. Grist for their mill lies all about them. The perfectly copyedited text is an impossibility, and while you know it can never be achieved, you can nevertheless never stop working for that Platonic ideal. (Should I change Platonic to platonic? Probably, I guess, but I’m not a copyeditor. And all those “nevers” are skating on the edge too.) I expect it’s hard for a copyeditor not to edit the book they are reading as well as the book they are working on, and their newspaper, their Christmas cards, those annual round-up letters now so often included with these cards, and of course carols.

Sent by David Crotty at The Scholarly Kitchen.

Always a good idea to read your contract: typos don’t normally work for you.

Alien is another word which we have inherited from the French, who in turn got it from Rome. The Oxford English Dictionary‘s etymology really goes to town on the word: “classical Latin aliēnus (adjective) of or belonging to others, unnatural, unusual, unconnected, separate, of another country, foreign, unrelated, of a different variety or species, unfamiliar, strange, unfriendly, unsympathetic, unfavourable, inappropriate, incompatible, distasteful, repugnant, (noun) person or slave belonging to another person, foreigner, stranger, outsider “. With a bundle of signification like that dragging along in the background, it’s not too surprising that “alien” might be a word that needs some rehabilitation.

Now comes, via Publishers Weekly, the liberating news that alien is being dumped from the Library of Congress cataloging system’s subject heading list. “Aliens” and “Illegal Aliens” will be replaced by “Noncitizens” and “Illegal immigration”. Does this mark another step down the road of reserving the term “aliens” for those little green men who keep visiting us in their UFOs?

How do you print those 3-D images which materialize alongside the goal in televised international football matches? We also see images printed on the grass of some sports fields, a technique more favored at televised rugby games. We rugger buggers always loved getting mud and dirt all over ourselves, so paint just adds another dimension. Here we see a large box advertising BT at a recent World Cup qualifier game featuring multiple goals from Harry Kane:

From the second photo, with the camera at a different elevation, you can see that the apparent BT box is actually just a flat mat, cunningly printed, lying there just over the goal line.

Now, the temptation to view this advertising method as some sort of high-tech magic should be resisted. It’s just anamorphic perspective, as used in 1533 by Hans Holbein The Younger in his painting The Ambassadors to be found in The National Gallery in London.

At the bottom observe the heavily distorted skull, which if viewed from the “correct” viewpoint looks like this:

Advertisers know that when the football game is televised the vast majority of the action will be followed by cameras in the stands, and as these are all at the same height from the pitch the distortion needed to make the flat image appear to be standing up is a known amount. There are also cameras placed low-down in order to show corner kicks and other goal-mouth detail. Only when these lower-level cameras are in operation will the 3-D object be seen to collapse into flat reality. Nicest, which I wasn’t able to photograph, is when a player walks across the printed mat, making it appear as if he’s magically walking through a hoarding.

Anamorphosis goes even further back. Alcamenes and Phidias 5th century BC sculptors allegedly competed to create an image of Minerva. Alcamenes’ sculpture was seen as beautiful, while Phidias’ was out of proportion. However once they had both been mounted on tall pillars, it was seen that the different viewpoint reversed the judgement.

The process is analogous to the Ames Room effect, where, when viewed through a peephole the room appears in perfect perspective, while it in fact consists of irregular trapezoids. Such rooms are used in film making, where they can be used to distort proportions making Alice really large or absolutely tiny.

Odd chap Ezekiel, though perhaps not as odd as his Lord who delivers strange dietary directions. Here, in the Authorised Version (King James Version) is the start of The Book of the Prophet Ezekiel, Chapter 3.

Moreover he said unto me, Son of man, eat that thou findest; eat this roll, and go speak unto the house of Israel. (2) So I opened my mouth, and he caused me to eat that roll. (3) And he said unto me, Son of man, cause thy belly to eat, and fill thy bowels with this roll that I give thee. Then I did eat it; and it was in my mouth as honey for sweetness.

This sounds a lot less strange than it really is, because of course we’re not here talking about a breakfast roll or a Tootsie roll. Roll actually means “scroll” which is how modern Bible translations tend to translate it. It’s obvious why you’d call a scroll a roll: you roll a scroll up after all. It seems that the French connection is once again responsible, with  Old French escrouele forming a point of origin.

Not really a square meal

Maybe we can detect a small trend in biblical book eating. In The Revelation of St. John the Divine, Chapter 10, St John is also instructed to eat up a book, though this time it’s a smaller titbit than a scroll might represent:

“And a voice which I heard from heaven spake unto me again, and said, Go and take a little book which is open in the hand of the angel which standerth upon the sea and upon the earth. (9) And I went unto the angel, and said unto him, Give me the little book. And he said unto me, Take it, and eat it up; and it shall make thy belly bitter, and it shall be in thy mouth sweet as honey. (10) And I took the little book out of the angel’s hand, and ate it up; and it was in my mouth sweet as honey: and as soon as I had eaten it, my belly was bitter.”

. . . as well you might expect. Cows, and other bovines presumably, can derive some nourishment from eating paper. We are not blessed with stomachs equipped to digest cellulose however, so we have to ingest our food for thought via our eyes or ears.

Here is Albrecht Dürer’s illustration of the event. Doesn’t really look like a little book, does it?

(Parenthetically, Jeremy points out in a comment that in the pictures I posted last week showing a book torn up by mice, the motive would more likely be nesting material rather than food.)

Bringing bibliophagy into the twenty-first century Plurabelle Books reports on a conference they organized in Cambridge, England, in 2011. There’s a certain amount of uncertainty about just how much of any particular book was consumed, despite suggestive photos, but they did have on the menu “bookwheat” bits.

To eat your words is a pretty odd expression too. The Oxford English Dictionary dates the first reference to 1571 when John Calvin wrote (or more accurately his translator did) “God eateth not his word when he hath once spoken”. It seems to have arrived in its current idiomatic form by the early seventeenth century though, so it’s well established.

See also Codex.

Marcus gets his MBE

FutureBook’s Person of the Year for 2021 is Marcus Rashford. The footballer is recognized “for using his platform to promote reading and books as well as for speaking out on child poverty during the pandemic.” 

Rashford was born in Manchester in 1997, and has been a member of Manchester United Football Club since the age of seven.

In October 2019 he set up the In the Box campaign with Selfridges to provide homeless people essential items over the Christmas period. In March 2020, during the Covid lockdown, Rashford teamed up with the poverty and food waste charity FareShare to deliver meals to kids in the Greater Manchester area who were not getting their free school meals. On 15 June, Rashford wrote an open letter to the UK government calling on them to end child poverty, and this appeared to have been pivotal in the government’s rapid policy change regarding school meals. He has now set up the Child Food Poverty Task Force in collaboration with several UK food shops, manufacturers, charities and delivery companies.

His charity work has extended to literacy. For the 2020 World Book Day, Rashford supported a campaign to help share a million stories, With Macmillan he has established a book club, launched in April 2021, with the intention of distributing 50,000 copies of two books every year. His children’s motivational book entitled You Are A Champion was published in May 2021.

A weel-doin’ man. Good footballer too.

Cabbie Blog tells us that the typeface used on the signs around the M25, encircling London, is (somewhat tritely) called “Motorway”. Wikipedia informs us that the face was designed by Jock Kinnear and Margaret Calvert, and was first used in 1958 for the M6 Preston bypass. Two weights are available for motorway use, though if you wanted to set your books in the face there are other varieties available. Here are the offerings available from MyFonts.

Cabbie Blog also reports that while road distances are given in miles throughout the UK, around the M25, and presumably elsewhere, “the driver location signs set at 500-meter intervals for emergency services are, for reason unknown, calculated in kilometers from a point near junction 31”. I guess mathematical facility is a job requirement for emergency service workers. Or maybe they are issued conversion books.

It always seemed odd that Britain, when it went in for decimalization left a few things in the old format. Thus you talk about the miles to go to that popular pub, and when you get there you order a pint of bitter. And don’t exceed the speed limit, which will be given in mph. I was always quite happy that my daughters started off in school at the same time as the local education authority ditched our ancestral system where four farthings make a penny, twelve pennies make a shilling, twenty shillings make a pound, twenty-one of them make a guinea. Plus of course all those 14s and 16s in weights and volumes. All kids had to learn to do was multiply by ten. But I do sort of miss it. The old ways may have been less “efficient”, but “quaint” makes up for a lot. Of course the book manufacturing business has “quaint” down breaking its arm, so surely I can stand for a bit of simplification in the rest of my life. See Demy Octavo and Measurement for the story of measurement in typesetting and printing.

Printing: a gift from the heavens

Mental Floss tells us what eight old books smell like. Whether they believe that this smell would be the same in a different copy of the book isn’t altogether clear — but I suspect not. But it might be a nice idea to have your books printed with inks which were scented in some appropriate way. My boss used to receive an advance copy of any book by cracking it open and smelling it. This was done out of a love for the smell of paper and ink combined with glue which any new book has. But imagine if each one was unique. Thus a mechanics text might be redolent of machine oil, or would that be reserved for car repair manuals? Horses smell good: why shouldn’t books about them? You could just open any copy of War and Peace, take a sniff of gunpowder and night roses, and have the whole story flash before you. I suppose we’d want to have all Tolstoy within the same scent family, while George Eliot say would be located in a different, more buckram-bound area of the aroma map. The National Institutes of Health reveal that we humans can allegedly identify more than a trillion smells, so while we might not be able to cover every book ever published now or in the future, we could make a brave new start on this enterprise.

This research project is not to be confused with The scent of a book.