Another day, another edition of Shady Characters! The handsome book on the right is the Chinese complex characters (also called traditional characters) edition, courtesy of Taiwan’s Rye Field Publications. The cover design is by Chang Lien Hung, aka elf-19, and I can promise you that it is far better looking in real life than my terrible photo makes it out to be. It is available now for ¥360. I’d love to hear what Chinese-literate readers might think of it — if you lay your hands on a copy, please leave a comment below or drop me a line via the contact form!
In unrelated but still exciting news, Oxford University Press recently named “hashtag” as children’s word of the year. Twitter says that it does not allow users under the age of 13, but it turns out that children, in Britain at least, are using hashtags in everyday language as a kind of intensifier or keyword marker. As The Guardian’s Mark Brown explains, “A child might write: ‘This is a wonderful day, #sunny,’ for example, or: ‘I have the best family, #fantasticfamily’.” This is the hash mark as a sort of front-loaded exclamation mark, perhaps, or an alternative to cumbersome parentheses.
Apropos of this, I was lucky enough to be asked to film a short video about the octothorpe for CBBC’s Newsround, a news programme for 6–12 year-olds, so I fired up my webcam and talked into it for a couple of minutes with only a moderate amount of self-consciousness. You can see the full item here. I must thank Newsround’s Ricky Boleto for giving me the chance to take part — Newsround has been on the air since 1972, and it was a pleasure to be able to contribute to a programme that I remember well from my own childhood!