Review: Grammar Girl’s new iPhone podcast interface

I grabbed Grammar Girl’s new iPhone app hot off the presses Wednesday afternoon, eager to see the next step in multimedia grammar presentation.

Mignon Fogarty got her start as a pioneer in podcasting and now also makes good grammar accessible through books, an e-mail newsletter, videos on YouTube, a Web site, and a presence on Twitter. What makes all these venues successful is they’re all Mignon – friendly, unintimidating, and smart.

The app follows the same formula, opening with the familiar Grammar Girl avatar in purple sweater and pony tail. Beyond is essentially access to a year’s worth of Grammar Girl podcasts along with one bonus podcast.

So, primarily, it’s a podcast interface. Click on an episode and listen or download an episode to listen offline. When I clicked on the app on my iPod Touch while waiting for my son to get out of his music lesson, I was told I had no saved episodes. Then, the app quit. But I wandered far enough from the French horn teacher’s house to find free wi-fi from the neighbors, and I downloaded the bonus episode and one other, using 5.3 MB of my iPod’s memory. Now I can listen at my leisure.

I find it useful to have a Grammar Girl podcast interface; others might question paying $1.99 for content that is free from iTunes or the Grammar Girl Web site.

But along with convenience, the value comes in the promised extras. The initial download includes a podcast discussion of “circumnavigate” and “circumvent” (just about any words that sound alike have been confused at some point). Also planned are photos, just for fun, showing grammar and usage issues. The first one shows a creative spelling of “Star Trek” on a Burger King sign. Future extras may include puzzles and whatever other creative enhancements Fogarty and crew dream up.

The app also includes a screen for checking out Grammar Girl’s Twitter feed and a link to the Web site, which is not set up for mobile but is easily navigable on an iPod. The app also has a background play mode, which allows you to work in other apps while listening.

I’m not a reviewer of apps but a fan of useful tools for good writing. Grammar Girl delivers the same sensible advice in a variety of mediums, and an iPhone app is just the latest format. If you’re a regular listener, this is sure to enhance the experience.

Ta

M. Lynne Murphy, an American-educated linguist living in England, writes the blog “Separated by a Common Language.” She annually seeks two words of the year, the best British borrowing from American English and the best American borrowing from the mother country. The verdict is not yet in for the crossovers for 2009; “staycation” seems an early favorite, despite slightly different meanings in America and in the U.K.

Seeing this inspired me to share my favorite Britishism, practically unknown in America: “Ta.” Not “ta” as in “ta ta,” meaning “so long.” “Ta” as in a quick and informal way of saying “thank you.”

Most sources suggest “ta” is from a young child’s way of saying thank you, dating from the 18th century. It doesn’t seem to me to be a likely mimic — neither of the sounds in “ta” (tah) are found in “thank you.” But whatever the origin, the word appears to be common in English casual speech. Online sources say it is heard in the Midlands and parts of London, as well as in Australia and New Zealand.

While I’m not usually big on slang shortenings, “ta” wins me over with charm and simplicity. I wouldn’t suggest introducing a word that duplicates the perfectly useful “thank you” or “thanks” just based on charm and simplicity, however. “Ta” also has utility.

It is a quarter as long as “thank you” and a third as long as “thanks,” making it an obvious choice for Twitter, where messages are limited to 140 characters. It is greatly superior to the common “THX” or “TY,” and it often substitutes nicely for “h/t” for “hat tip.” Electronic communication is rife with abbreviations that require translation. “Ta” is self-contained.

I do not nominate “ta” as Lynne Murphy’s crossover word for 2009. While I was aware of the word from English relatives, I only heard it commonly used during a trip to England several years ago and in one or two movies in which Hugh Grant played a leading role. I can’t say that I’ve ever heard it used in the United States except by friends trying to humor me.

I do think it’s time to start the campaign for Murphy’s BrE borrowing for 2010. I have been using “ta” on Twitter, with the likely effect people shrugging it off rather than checking the dictionary. No matter. I’ll keep using it in hopes that it catches on. If you say it to me, I certainly will reply “you’re welcome.”

Ta.

Paper’s plan has Twitter users groping for words

After looking through hundreds of comments on Twitter about the “bold” and rather odd reorganization at the Dallas Morning News, one freelance copy editor summarized in a tweet: “Consensus: apocalypse.”

The comments she read through were attached to retweets of a link to a blog of the Daily Observer in Dallas. Robert Wilonsky republished a memo from Bob Mong, Dallas Morning News editor, and Cyndy Carr, senior vice president for sales, that laid out a strategy for “business/news integration” in which editors would report to general managers responsible for different segments of advertising sales.

“I think I just heard the wall fall,” a friend tweeted me. “Journalism: Dead in Dallas,” said another.

Twitter conversations can be an interesting way to gauge opinion. The Web site bit.ly compiles data on links it provides, and it allows a quick look at hundreds of comments added to Twitter messages as people pass along a link.

Reading through bit.ly’s list, at http://bit.ly/info/6d5AHv, one can almost feel the collective gasp.

Here are the comments on the bit.ly list at 3 the afternoon the story came out.They are mostly in order, with Twitter names, links and repetition removed. I didn’t look for the controversial or clever. I didn’t have to. This is pretty much all of them. It’s a long list, but a quick skim will give you an idea:

  • Okay, this is the worst thing to happen in the history of the printed page
  • I just died a little
  • Wait, what?!: wow, Dallas Morning News editors reporting to ad sales
  • Yikes is right. RT Yikes. Dallas News has a bold new strategy. Yikes.
  • Mourning the Dallas Morning News. Because what’s happened there means it’s no longer a newspaper. It’s an ad circular
  • Commenter said: “DMN RIP.”
  • Holy cow!
  • Wow. Unbelievable
  • Ugh; it’s wrong on so many levels.
  • This is not ok
  • More pervasive that you’d think…
  • Really interesting developments in Dallas, where some editors will now report to sales managers
  • OMG! News is all about ad revenue now.
  • uh-oh
  • Dallas Morning News editors now report to ad sales managers. Seems the death of real journalism is upon us
  • Bold strategy n DMN reorg: Breakng dwn old walls (between sales & edit)
  • oh yeah, this is good for society.
  • OMFG. I quit. Journalism R.I.P. “Dallas News, a New “Bold Strategy”: Section Editors Reporting to Sales Managers”
  • I’m devoting a week’s worth out outrage to this
  • Surely nothing bad could come of this
  • Very disturbing: Editors reporting to sales folks.
  • Editors to report to Sales Managers at The Dallas News (Nothing bad could happen here, right)
  • OMG! Stop the madness: Dallas Morning News editors now report to sales managers.
  • So very wrong
  • Newsroom and Sales integration in Dallas? They say progressive. I say bad idea for content integrity
  • Really, is it already time to sell your soul? Dallas Morning News editors now report to sales teams.
  • This memo must be a few years old. Advertisers have been guiding “news” in this fish wrapper for a long time.
  • Yeah, WTF??
  • And the wall came crumbling down
  • Well, the Dallas Morning News has ceased to be a newspaper.
  • First sign of the apocalypse?
  • Recipe for total disaster
  • The end of the world as we know it. Editors reporting to sales people.
  • Whoa.
  • Wha- What?
  • Journalism FAIL
  • Probably not the best way to foster journalistic integrity
  • dear, sweet God in heaven, yes. > Did the Dallas Morning News just jump the shark?
  • It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel … rather queasy.
  • not in my newspaper
  • wow, Dallas Morning News editors reporting to ad sales
  • It’s like the journalism end of days
  • Wow. This is new ground.
  • •ridiculous.
  • If all true, this is nuts
  • Dallas News makes The Onion irrelevant …
  • I just died a little
  • Dallas Morning News sections now report to sales staff. In case you needed more bad news about journalism…
  • Wow indeed! Putting ads in charge of news #journfail
  • wow, Dallas Morning News eds reporting to ad sales
  • This is not ok
  • This is so very wrong
  • Sad state of affairs in “journalism.”
  • that’s transparency, but not substantive change
  • Unbelievable, ridiculous.
  • Another sign of the journalistic apocalypse facing the newspaper business
  • My newspaper and journalism friends, it’s a dark day for journalistic integrity
  • The #DMN has sold its soul.
  • taking things further: Dallas Morning News section editors to report directly to sales execs
  • splain it to me, pls. I just don’t see how sales managers bossing news editors can work
  • If I find out this is happening at B-CS Eagle, I may cry.
  • What could possibly go wrong, journalistically speaking ?
  • A huge nail in the nearly finished newspaper coffin
  • •Scary direction for the DMN.
  • This looks like a steaming pile of bad judgment
  • Wow, this is like the most astoundingly bad idea ever
  • God help us all
  • I have no words
  • DMN turns over editorial content to the ad reps. Can we just count that as another dead paper?
  • Holy schnike
  • OK, you got me. That was a bigger WTF! than me seeing Tiger all over my front page this morning. WTF!
  • So much for church/state
  • Scary
  • Ahhhh!!
  • Is this the future of journalism?
  • La foto de cómo sí desaparecerán los periódicos… y el periodismo. Editores reportando al Jefe de Ventas en Dallas.
  • They’d B OK w/editors replaced by Enquirer staffers
  • No. WHAT?!
  • Editorial to report to sales directorate at Dallas News. Un-bee-LIEVE-able.
  • this is like the most astoundingly bad idea ever
  • Wow!
  • A really different way of doing a newspaper, courtesy of the DMN
  • So what do the editor and managing editor do now?
  • Some Dallas Morning News editors now report to SALES managers… Wow.
  • And people wonder why “news” is so sanitized.
  • “To a dark place this line of thought will carry us.”
  • Well, there goes any trust I had in the DMN. Sales department now supervises
  • Oh. This is not good.
  • GASP!!!
  • Whoa
  • Kinda long, kinda freaky: newspaper hands editorial reigns to the ad sales dept!
  • Another newspaper bites the dust. The Dallas News hands the newsroom over to the sales dept
  • Mr. Editor, tear … down … this … wall!