Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Monday, March 05, 2021

Man, that Stuart Elliott will publish anything.

Or at least, he seems to publish anything that I send him (on his email newsletter — New York Times print is more privileged terrain). I was surprised to see that he ran an email I sent him last week, which referenced a Q&A that dealt with the current Mercedes-Benz driver-testimonial commercials. It’s another of those fairly off-the-cuff notes I write that, improbably, find a wider audience than I’d ever expect them to.

Anyway, since Elliott published it with the intent of uncovering some long-lost information — many thanks — here it is:

I read the question last week from a reader who Googled the names of people who are appearing in a Mercedes-Benz commercial. That brought to mind a similar impulse I had, probably about 10 years ago now. Unfortunately, my memory’s pretty fuzzy on the details, but it was something like this:

An early Web site registrar, which probably also offered hosting, ran a TV campaign that featured business owners who took the plunge and set up corporate Web sites. Similar to the Mercedes-Benz commercial, their on-camera testimonials included their names, the names of their companies and the U.R.L.’s of their Web sites.

After seeing the spot for the millionth time, I finally decided to type those U.R.L.’s into my browser. What came back weren’t fully-functioning company Web sites, but rather parked pages owned by the advertising registrar. In other words: The testimonials were fictional, but that fact wasn’t indicated in the commercials.

Again, it has been a long time, but I believe I contacted some media outlet or another - probably my hometown newspaper, The St. Petersburg Times - to point out the flub. From there, the spots eventually started running a disclaimer, and the “phony” sites also got some sort of qualifier information. It was an early lesson in Web backlash.

If any of that rings a bell, please let me know. I’m pretty good at ferreting out this sort of stuff, but right now I can’t even imagine where to begin. I’m pretty sure the registrar is no longer around under its original name. And I think one of the fake companies had “Sun” as part of its name.

I certainly was winging it. Now, a week after sending it, I think I’ve jogged my memory enough to ID the registrar company: Network Solutions. I’m not positive on that, but it seems to ring correctly.

As far as the offending phony ads, I’d have thought there would have been some sign of them in the Archive.org cache of NetSol’s website. But there doesn’t appear to be. So I’m out of ideas. If anyone can recall this advertising moment, please volunteer your thoughts.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 03/05/2021 10:34 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Internet, Publishing
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The old spring-ahead for Daylight Saving Time happens this coming Sunday, which is earlier than in years past.

Unfortunately, it looks like the computer folks didn’t get the memo until recently:

It’s a massive amount of work to get everything in order,” said Kim Stevenson, a vice president at Electronic Data Systems, a large technology services company. “And the do-nothing plan is a high-risk plan.”

The daylight-time shift, according to technology executives and analysts, amounts to a “mini-Y2K.” That is a reference to the rush in the late 1990s to change old software, which was unable to recognize dates in the new millennium, 2000 and beyond.

I fail to see why IT departments are scrambling now, during crunch time. The bill mandating the DST change passed last fall, so the adjustments and software patches should have gone forth then. You can’t count on Digg to deliver you everything newsworthy…

Anyway, if you’re running one of this century’s versions of Windows, Bill Gates has a shorty URL for you.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 03/05/2021 09:54 PM
Category: Tech
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While genetic evidence that the residents of the British Isles are less distinct from one another than has been assumed historically is certainly interesting, it’s not interesting enough for me to cogitate about. The cultural entrenchment in identifying yourself as English, Scottish, Welsh or Irish precludes any gene-splicing.

The angle in this story that I do find interesting: That same DNA research supports arguments that the English language itself, long assumed to be a polyglotted offshoot of parent Germanic tongues, is in fact a distinct parent branch in its own right.

English is usually assumed to have developed in England, from the language of the Angles and Saxons, about 1,500 years ago. But Dr. Forster argues that the Angles and the Saxons were both really Viking peoples who began raiding Britain ahead of the accepted historical schedule. They did not bring their language to England because English, in his view, was already spoken there, probably introduced before the arrival of the Romans by tribes such as the Belgae, whom Julius Caesar describes as being present on both sides of the Channel…

Germanic is usually assumed to have split into three branches: West Germanic, which includes German and Dutch; East Germanic, the language of the Goths and Vandals; and North Germanic, consisting of the Scandinavian languages. Dr. Forster’s analysis shows English is not an off-shoot of West Germanic, as usually assumed, but is a branch independent of the other three, which also implies a greater antiquity. Germanic split into its four branches some 2,000 to 6,000 years ago, Dr. Forster estimates.

Historians have usually assumed that Celtic was spoken throughout Britain when the Romans arrived. But Dr. Oppenheimer argues that the absence of Celtic place names in England — words for places are particularly durable — makes this unlikely.

To my ear — coming from someone who learned English and Greek simultaneously while growing up, and later dabbling in Spanish, German, and Russian — the emphasis on English’s admixtures of extra-British lexicons always came off as overdone. Because it’s unquestionably a German tongue at root and in structure, even when taking into account contributions from French, Danish (fun fact: “are”, the plural form of the verb “to be”, is Danish in origin — attesting to how deeply ingrained Viking invasions became) and other languages. That’s not news, of course.

It’s assumed in this article, but bears noting: This native English from a couple thousand years ago would sound markedly different from what’s spoken now. Linguistic evolution inevitably transforms languages. The issue is when and how that proto-English came into being.

All in all, an intriguing scenario.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 03/05/2021 09:05 PM
Category: History, Science, Wordsmithing
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Ann Coulter certainly has a way with words:

Ann Coulter made the comment while talking about Democratic presidential hopefuls to GOP activists attending the annual Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday.

“I was going to have a few comments on the other Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, but it turns out you have to go into rehab if you use the word ‘faggot,’ so I - so kind of an impasse, can’t really talk about Edwards,” Coulter said.

For the Republican Party, Coulter is now a flesh-and-blood embodiment of Ross Perot’s “crazy aunt in the basement”: Too integral to the conservative cause to exile altogether, but too much of a loose wire to associate with in public. The GOP will be keeping her off to the fringe for the rest of the 2008 election season.

I would speculate that Coulter intentionally torpedoed herself off the campaign trail, both to generate some handy controversy for pumped-up book/appearance sales and to free up her time. That’ll happen anyway, but it’s more a byproduct of her lack of self-editing.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 03/05/2021 08:05 AM
Category: Celebrity, Politics
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