October 29, 2004

The unspeakable

I noticed that two films have arrived in town bearing names that cannot literally be pronounced because they are not spelled with letters. One is I ♥ Huckabees, directed by David O. Russell (where that ‘♥’ should appear as a heart; under Firefox 1.0.6 on a Mac it does not, I notice). The other is What the #$*! Do We Know, a documentary by William Arntz, Betsy Chasse, and Mark Vicente. People appear to be getting around the problem typographically by writing as "(heart)", and writing #$*! as "(bleep)", and presumably pronouncing them likewise.

In related news from the orthography/phonetics interface, Language Log readers may be surprised to hear that after a reorganization, Royal Dutch / Shell changed its name yesterday. It is now called Royal Dutch Shell. The slash is gone, but phonetically the name remains the same.

Get your language news here on Language Log. We may spend a certain amount of time obsessing over piddling orthographic trifles of no importance to man or beast, but hey, the price is right, you know that.

Posted by Geoffrey K. Pullum at October 29, 2004 01:55 PM