This little piece of genius is thanks to House Industries. It’s a great website where they offer fonts, clothing and opinions by the bucket-load.
In this film they’ve shot a gentleman called Ed Ronthaler who was 102 years old when this film was made.
He is the founder of Photo-Lettering Inc, a pioneering company involved in the setting of headlines and advertising text. They developed a number of cutting edge techniques to create a variety of optical effects, all in the days before Macs made the typesetter’s job much, much quicker.
He’s been there, seen and done it. And in this little film he demonstrates the absurdities he has noticed about the English language in all his years of working with words.

Ed's grasp of English is, indeed, the bomb.

Ed's grasp of English is, indeed, the bomb.

As he points out, the English language is the home of some mighty strange spellings.
In fact, sum dum spellings cum out in this little film.

Which led me nicely onto a piece that has been around for a little while. It concerns the imaginary attempts of the EU to standardise and simplify the way the English language works.

The European Commission has just announced an agreement whereby English will be the official language of the EU rather than German which was the other possibility.

As part of the negotiations, Her Majesty’s Government conceded that English spelling had some room for improvement and has accepted a five-year phase-in plan that would be known as “Euro-English”.

In the first year, “s” will replace the soft “c”. Sertainly, this will make the sivil servants jump with joy. The hard “c” will be dropped in favour of the “k”. This should klear up konfusion and keyboards kan have 1 less letter.

There will be growing publik enthusiasm in the sekond year, when the troublesome “ph” will be replaced with “f”. This will make words like “fotograf” 20% shorter.

In the 3rd year, publik akseptanse of the new spelling kan be ekspekted to reach the stage where more komplikated changes are possible. Governments will enkorage the removal of double letters, which have always ben a deterent to akurate speling. Also, al wil agre that the horible mes of the silent “e”s in the language is disgraseful, and they should go away.

By the fourth year, peopl wil be reseptiv to steps such as replasing “th” with “z” and “w” with “v”. During ze fifz year, ze unesesary “o” kan be dropd from vords kontaining “ou” and similar changes vud of kors be aplid to ozer kombinations of leters.

After zis fifz yer, ve vil hav a reli sensibl riten styl. Zer vil be no mor trubl or difikultis and evrivun vil find it ezi to understand ech ozer. Ze drem vil finali kum tru! And zen world!

And this, in turn, reminded me of a sensational little quirk of the human brain when it is reading. Researchers at Cambridge University have spent some time investigating a phenomenon which originally started life as an urban myth. They have found that there are high levels of truth in the experiment, but that it can break down when the words get longer and people’s grasp of them is not so certain. I actually believe that if the person tested has a large vocabulary and a dexterous mind then the results hold almost no matter how long the word.
They discovered that it doesn’t matter what order the letters of a word are in, as long as the first and last letters are in the right place, you can still read it. It’s to do with the fact that the human brain doesn’t actually read every word. It scans them and uses recognition of the length of word and the positioning of it in regard to the other words in the sentence to determine the message. Try it yourself with the body of text below.

The hamun biran is an azmanig tinhg.

The hamun biran is an azmanig tinhg.

All in all the English language is a strange beast. But it’s rich and vibrant and full of surprises that continue to make it a joy to explore and use.

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In common with most of the western world I’m hopeful that the latest US President has his head screwed on the right way, and that the dim days of Bush (either one, take your pick) are consigned to the dustbin of history.
He’s been making all the right noises to convince the world that he’s not as intellectually-challenged as ‘W’ was, and has actually seemed like he cares about what happens to the world (rather than just a few of his mates in Texas).
There have been thousands of images put out there to promote President Obama and his vision for the US and the world. Perhaps none have been as powerful as this one (shown below) to show just how enormous the change in the White House has been.

Spot the difference.

Spot the difference.

So good luck to him. After W’s very poor attempts to play the world’s statesman, it looks like President Obama is going to need all the luck he can manage. On the plus side, after Bush there’s only one way the Presidency can go, and that’s up. Let’s hope that the rest of the machinations of the US political system allow him to achieve what he’s set out to.

The iconic advertising campaign for The Economist was created at Abbot Mead Vickers (AMV) and is a brilliant example of inspired thinking. It shows how a cleverly conceived and fabulously executed campaign can win awards and win new readers (and advertisers) for the magazine.
The campaign benefits from the stellar thinking that was led by David Abbott, but he also knew how to delegate and get the best from all of his teams. The legendary Ron Brown was responsible for the choice of typeface (Bauer Classic) that complimented the logo typeface, but was different enough to make the reader know which part was the message and which part the messenger.
It’s difficult to stop eulogising about these posters. They have always been created as posers should be – as posters. The difficulty that many posters suffer from is that they were conceived as press ads. So they are carrying too much to really be effective as posters. You would know an Economist poster from 100 yards even if the logo was removed. And that has been the case for more than 20 years now.
Sure they’ve finally changed the art direction and changed the approach slightly. But they still maintain the intelligence and wit that they have become (rightly) famous for.
If you only create one thing this good in your career – rejoice for it is truly wonderful.
You can visit the AMV website here, and see the latest Economist ads and also other great work (for clients like Guinness, Alka-Seltzer and BT).
Below is a selection of my favourite Economist ads. These are the ones I could lay my hands on. There are many, many others that are equally well thought out but that I couldn’t find a copy of to scan and share with you.

The keyhole execution. No words, but it says so much.

The keyhole execution. No words, but it says so much.

Fly On The Wall. Again no words but the message is unmissable.

Fly On The Wall. Again no words but the message is unmissable.

Captains of industry won't get lost

Captains of industry won't get lost

A head-turning execution.

A head-turning execution.

More examples of clever, confident thinking

More examples of clever, confident thinking

Two other executions - Smarties should be sharp. Indeed.

Two other executions - Smarties should be sharp. Indeed.

Make the rules. And then break them for added impact.

Make the rules. And then break them for added impact.

A desk-top reminder, still bang on brief

A desk-top reminder, still bang on brief

If you really love these ads like I do, there’s a superb book about the history of the campaign called ‘Well-Written And Red’ by Alfredo Marcantonio [ISBN: 0-9537032-3-1]. It costs about £35 on amazon.co.uk, and is worth every single penny.

As we eased into 2009 I was sitting watching the main 6 o’clock news on January 2nd on BBC1.
The main presenter of the news introduced a reporter who reported on the “abandondment” of the subject of the story. I can’t remember much about the story, mainly because I was dumbstruck by the sheer stupidity of adding the second ‘d’ into the word “abandonment”.
Now I realise that everyone can make mistakes, but it’s not just the reporter. There’s his producer, and sub-editors and editors and all sorts of interested parties who should have picked up on this. Instead, we have one of our main news sources inventing pronunciations. What hope for the rest of us if professional journalists can’t get the basics right?
And then, as if to compound the intelligence-free nature of the news, when we cut back to the presenter she pronounced the word “species” by saying “speshies”. This is a more common mistake than you might think, as many people pronounce the ‘c’ as ‘she’. And the more it happens, the more people think that it’s the correct pronunciation. Which just compounds the problem.

And today's newsreader is...

And today's newsreader is...

And at the BBC they should have no problem getting the pronunciation correct. They have a pronunciation department, which we pay for. If there is any dubiety over the pronunciation, you pick up the phone and ask an expert. Or you just go on the programme without checking and look like a muppet in front of 5 million people.

As every right minded person on this earth must surely agree, Israel has to stop attacking the people of Gaza in such a disproportionate and inhuman manner.
I feel nothing but sadness when I see the people of Israel thinking that throwing bombs and killing civilians is the answer. Violence is never the answer. I realise that it’s a complex issue, and that it’s unlikely to be satisfactorily resolved in the near future. However, Israel seems to think that they can do whatever they like. And they’ve got a point. If it was any other nation on earth bombing, killing and maiming so many civilians you can bet that the US of A (in its role as the world’s policeman) would be clamouring to invade. But Israel has the States on-side and in their pocket.
I read a great article about the situation by a lady called Joan Burnie. She’s a journalist who writes for the Daily Record here in Scotland. You can see the website here.
This article appeared in the Friday, 2nd January edition of the paper. I have reproduced it here without permission, so I hope that Joan and the Daily Record aren’t offended. Take it as flattery, as I think this is so well written it sums up the whole situation in not too many words. She manages to get to the heart of the matter, without worrying about people thinking she’s anti-Semitic. She gets the tone bang-on, and manages to express the sheer stupidity of the situation. Can these politicians who pontificate really expect us to believe they’d have the same calm approach if it was their children and loved ones being killed and maimed in the name of peace?
Anyway, here’s how Joan sees the situation.
“Where, I ask myself as Gaza is reduced to rubble, is Tony Blair? You remember the geezer? Used to be our Prime Minister, hacket wife, both now worth millions off the back of their sojourn in No.10.
But isn’t Blair also supposed to be a Middle East peace envoy?
Some peace. Some envoy, Tone.
Unfortunately, while those pesky weapons of mass destruction of which he was once so sure were no more than a mirage, the current conflict is only too visible.
Not least to those trying between the bombardment to bury their dead as Israel carries out yet another disproportionate response which cynically punishes the innocent more than the guilty.
Remind me again how many Israelis have died? Four, five? Remind me too of how many they had previously slaughtered in the Lebanon?
Even before this blitz began, using the most modern and lethal weapons America can bung them, the citizens of Gaza had been deprived of the most basic of amenities by Israel.
They were imprisoned in what was little more than an internment camp.
Is there anyone, even those who think the Israeli response is justified, who believes this onslaught will make the world a safer place? It only acts as a recruiting sergeant for Hamas.
I am also sick to the back teeth of sanctimonious Israeli spokespeople asking what we would do if we had terrorists targeting our country.
They did. But we did not pulverise the Irish Republic, did we? Or, for that matter, cities such as Boston, which financed the Provos.
Israel gets off, literally, with bloody murder because of a mixture of European guilt over the obscenity which was the Holocaust, and Americans’ unquestioning support, which keeps Israel armed and solvent.
Don’t expect change from Barack Obama. The Israelis are the great untouchables in American politics. Here’s a solution. The Jews are entitled to a homeland. So why not rebuild Israel in Arizona? It’s big and empty enough. Next time Tone’s in the States picking up one of his large cheques, he should suggest it.”
Which I think nails it. Israel should know better than to bully another people. I’m not racist, or anti-anyone, I just think that the current stance is counter-productive and will lead to more trouble.
I was always taught that it takes a bigger man to walk away from a fight. So why can’t Israel be the bigger man and try to find an end to this ceaseless murder and carnage?
It also reminded me of a great line said by a pundit in the BBC studios on the night of Obama’s victory. His comment was a smart one about W’s time as president. He said:
“It’s like the Bush administration have been running a terrorist recruitment campaign.”
And it’s true. America isn’t whiter than white. They should worry about putting their own house in order before they decide to wield the broom around the globe.
And if anyone is offended by what is written here, why not try writing to the other side in the dispute, rather than bothering me.
Because if there’s one group of people who shouldn’t turn into bullies, it’s those who have been bullied previously.
It’s a hugely complex issue, but the resolution can be simple. Stop killing each other.
It takes a bigger man to walk away from a fight. Why not try it? Because one thing’s for sure – trying to win a battle against a motivated, invisible army is not only impossible, it’s insane to even try.
As no less a man than Albert Einstein once said:
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
So change the approach and you might change the outcome.