November 14, 2006

When life is funnier than the funnies

The world's media recently saw a flurry of stories about a non-story: exam-grading authorities in Scotland and New Zealand explained, when asked, that they give partial credit for correct answers that are wrongly spelled -- a long-standing policy that also covers occasional intrusions of abbreviated spellings from the culture of text messaging. This led to blasts and counter-blasts of end-times rhetoric from pundits and politicians. There was an especially funny exchange between Bill English, the spokesman for education of the National Party in New Zealand, and Steve Maharey, New Zealand's minister of education:

English: This kind of pigeon English is fine for young people organising their social lives, but it is not an acceptable way of expressing an academic argument or idea.
Maharey: The statement is understandable, despite pidgin being spelt p-i-g-e-o-n, as in a bird from the dove family, rather than p-i-d-g-i-n, as in simplified language used between persons of a different nationality. But we will give him credit.

Although I'm a big fan of User Friendly, I'm afraid that in this case the politicians are funnier:

It's normal, if unfortunate, that politicians and the mass media get this kind of thing wrong. But I expect better from the cartoonists. [Tip of the hat to Robin Shannon]

Posted by Mark Liberman at November 14, 2006 08:15 AM