Computer fails Churchill’s speech


Winston Churchill’s fight on the beaches  speech might have stirred the hearts and minds of the people to whom it was addressed, but it failed to impress a computer marker.

David Wright, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Educational Assessors (CIEA), an umbrella body for exam boards and other organisations, said that Churchill’s speeches to the nation in 1940 had not impressed the computer. It criticised his repetition of the words “upon” and “our” and did not identify “broad, sunlit uplands” as a metaphor.

The computer didn’t think much of the prose of Ernest Hemingway or William Golding either.

The idea that a computer could mark an English essay doesn’t altogether thrill me. But its assessment of Churchill’s speech and the other writers’ work makes me feel much better about the arguments I have with the grammar checker on my PC.

Hat Tip: Society of Authors’ newsletter.

Reading by example


A few weeks ago Rural Delivery on TV1 had a story about a dairy farmer who had gone organic.

What the story didn’t say was that the farmer had recently become a director of a fertiliser company.

My farmer reckoned that would be a bit like a sheep and beef farmer going vegetarian or a dairy farmer who didn’t eat cheese.

Examples of industrial irony aren’t confined to farming. Quote Unquote has spotted it in literary circles in a post on the formation of the NZ Book Industry Alliance

It’s an alliance between the National Library of New Zealand and the Publishers Association of New Zealand, Booksellers New Zealand, New Zealand Book Council, New Zealand Book Month and the New Zealand Society of Authors.

“We formed the alliance to establish closer working relationships and to work together to promote and celebrate books“ Penny Carnaby National Librarian and Chief Executive, National Library of New Zealand.

In support of the protocol Wellington head librarians have pledged to read a book every month and challenge all kiwis to do the same.

People whose work involves books who have to pledge to read need to ask themselves if they’re in the right job.

They might also want to contemplate the poster on the wall of Otago University’s English Department which said I read, therefore I think.

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