Sunday, March 11, 2007

Global Neighbourhoods vs. global neighborhoods

I continue to struggle with the decision by Shel Israel of Naked Conversations fame to go with a funky, pseudo spelling for the title of his new book entitled Global Neighbourhoods [sic], rather than the more literate Global Neighborhoods without the fanciful "u." Yeah, intellectually I understand what he is trying to say and do, but in the practical world it doesn't come off so smoothly.

For one thing, I think his subconscious disagrees with the decision and forces him to keep spelling it "wrong", without the "u." To wit, on his Global Neighbourhoods web page, I find seven instances without the "U", and only three with it. Shel is lucky that his blog isn't a democracy! On the flip side, the "u" spelling is more common in

Importantly, two of the tags were missing the "u" as well, so there are now two distinct databases of tag terms.

From a practical perspective, a normal spelling checker is either going to "fix" the "u" spelling, or fail to fix the non-"u" spelling. Either way, no joy.

And what about users who wish to search the web or blogs for references? They may accidentially leave out the "u" and miss some references to Shel's book, or they include the "u" and miss some references where the writer left out the "u". Not exactly a win-win situation either.

Shel has made his bed and now will have to lie in it, but I'm tempted to caution future writers from going down this path of tweaking the spelling of normal English words. Better to completely contrive fanciful words than go down a path that depends on ambiguity and possibly leads to confusion.

That's all my first point here.

My main point here (hence the post title) is how does Shel expect to "square" the stylish title of his book with the more technical concept of a "global neighborhood"? As in "organizations need to recognize and support the development of global neighborhoods as espoused by Shel Israel in his book Global Neighbourhoods [sic]." In other words, should I espect to find the term global neighborhood in the Wikipedia as a social concept, distinct from the title of Shel's book? Or is global neighborhood considered an improper spelling of global neighbourhood?

Does he fully intend that people referringto his concept of a global neighbor-place include the "u", or does he accept that the underlying concept excludes the "u"?

I can understand the desire to have a monopoly on defining the term with the "u" (ala O'Reilly trying to claim "ownership" of Web 2.0), but maybe that's not his actual intent.

I do recognize that we also have the issue of American English versus "British" English, where the "u" is the normal form, but as far as I can tell, Shel is at least initially focused on getting the book out in the U.S., with the rest of the world to follow.

Finally, as a mundane editorial issue, should the "[sic]" notation be placed after Neighbourhoods [sic] to acknowledge the intended alternative spelling?

Maybe Hugh McLeod could do one of his curious cartoons that encapsulates this whole issue in a way that makes the proper path all too clear. But since he hails from the land of the "u", I'm not hopeful.

In any case, I won't belabor the point and will vigorously support Shel even if he does continue with the "u" thing. I won't even deign to ask him to make a "U" turn.

Besides, the old saying in marketing is that "No PR is bad PR", so a little (but not too much) confusion and controversy can actually be a win.

-- Jack Krupansky


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