Reading At Night By Invisible Light

English: Collection of various fluorescent min...
Collection of various fluorescent minerals – click through to see up close (worth it)

Among the more pointless things I’ve done recently is install a blacklight CFL in my bedside lamp. This is to encourage me to take up reading books again. Do you follow? It’s a simple idea really. I’ve grown so used in the last decade or so to reading from screens that paper seems a bit weird now. But turn on a UV lamp and what happens to a book? It glows. Like a screen!

Bleaching agents in the paper must make it fluoresce. Not all the fibres seem to have it equally though, and the page takes on an oddly speckled, grainy look. It is bright enough to read by though, just about.

All right to be honest this isn’t really why I got the bulb. I bought it because I’d never seen a blacklight CFL before, it wasn’t expensive, and I thought it was too interesting not to buy. In action it seems more violet than invisible, but white things around the room glow in an eerie way. The shirts I have hanging look particularly fierce, and the pale neon emanating from my map of Europe hints at the trippy possibilities. This all gives the room an… interesting look – somewhere between clinical laboratory and tatty ghost train.

And I notice that it actually makes the photochromic lenses of my glasses go dark, so it really does seem to put out a healthy (?) amount of ultraviolet light. Perhaps if I sleep with it on I’ll get a tan this summer.

Language Evolves

But that isn’t necessarily a good thing. Stinky-breathed Komodo dragons probably evolved from a perfectly nice little fish.

This packaging was clearly designed by someone who doesn’t speak English – or a LOLcat – as they’ve made the cardinal error of applying logic. Consequently they’ve come up with exactly the mistake that the native speaker doesn’t make. Mind you, they’ve probably just skipped a century or two of language development. If dice is accepted as the singular now, ‘dices’ is surely in the future.

Generally I think of myself as a linguistic conservative, on the grounds that language innovations will be different everywhere so older forms are going to be more widely understood. Also, it’s interesting when a word is a misfit. It tells you a lot about its origins – from the Latin ‘datum’ in this case, by way of mediaeval French.

Indeed English spelling tells you so much about the etymological origins of a word that it’s basically useless for telling you how they’re pronounced. But die/dice is just annoying. Following the usual pattern, you’d expect the singular to be douse. When a word needs a rule all for itself, you begin to wonder if you’re not overindulging it.

I think dice should be acceptable as the singular now. Die can be reserved for the technical phrase “twenty-sided die”.