Friday, May 11, 2007


ESL Woes

ESL, for those who might not know, is (or was in the 1960s) the shorthand expression used in L.A. city schools for "English Second Language" in designating classes that were intended for students for whom English was not the mother tongue. As English spreads to ever more people as a second or third language, thanks to globalisation and the Internet, there are bound to be cases where folk say things using English as they would have said them in their mother tongue but it just doesn't work. One such case is an open source mail client called Claws Mail, which claims:

Claws Mail - the email client that bites!

 "that really bites" or "that bites" is a very negative judgment (like "sucks"). A note on the American Dialect Society mailing list agrees with me, dating the expression to circa 1971.

I asked hakia, "Is 'that bites' a compliment?"

Answer: Brilliant query indeed. How about: The bland, repetitive featurettes are full of boilerplate sound bites complimenting the accomplished cast.

That isn't quite what for which I was hoping. I suppose my query may have been too succinct.

Nevertheless, I think Claws should change its slogan. I also think they should discontinue their
"Sometimes intelligent design is better than Evolution" t-shirts--too few people know that Evolution is an email client developed by the gnome project.

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Yeah, we're aware that "It bites" is not a compliment in US english -- but it is one in UK english.

Concerning the Evolution tshirts, that's just an insider's joke, it's not the official one, and it's made on purpose to raise eyebrows ;-)

Claws developer
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