Gr8 Marketing or Ghastly Grammar?! - 07/08/2013

Our secretary of state for education has just announced, amidst much ballyhoo, a new school curriculum that concentrates on grammar, numeracy and history. Although we at GiSPro do try to follow the rules of grammar, we report on an industry that is fundamentally dependent on measurement, numbers and statistics – and we do try to cover interesting bits of history. We are also pleased to see that geographic information systems are still specifically mentioned along with Ordnance Survey. Presumably internet mapping from Google, Microsoft, etc. is so easy to learn that it does not need to be on the curriculum?

We can’t cap it

However, we despair at the deliberate distortion of grammar perpetrated by some of our peers in the interests, presumably, of marketing otherwise opaque companies, products or services. This trend is aided and abetted by the internet, which seems to be indifferent to grammar despite Mr Gates doing his best with red and green signals in his word processor. We now have companies “officially” beginning with small letters; we have capitals in front of every word of a person’s job title; and we have government departments that pick and choose where they think the rules of grammar should apply! At PV Publications we have a deliberate policy of reducing the use of capital letters to the minimum – we are, after all, the understated British and not the magniloquent Germans! We have “here”, “thinkWhere” and “miso”. We have DCLG but also Defra. There are chief executive officers too numerous to mention and our editors are just that.

Lost in the post

Readers will know that we are well engaged with the issues surrounding the availability of addresses and postcodes in the UK. In this issue (page 12) you will find a heartfelt local authority viewpoint with an implied threat to take on Royal Mail at their own game – which would be to the detriment of us all. You may not yet have noticed the launch of a new service “which3words” (yes, all lower case!). This service might just offer an alternative to postcodes for some uses but will certainly not attract many free users if your location is to be described as “” when, for just 99p, you could be “PVPubs”. And some of their words fail my computer’s family safety check! Nevertheless, with a single click from an email, you can direct anyone to your exact location, with directions to reach you as well.

Baby and moisture

I am writing this editorial immediately after the first day of the Cambridge Conference hosted by Ordnance Survey for 150 leaders of national mapping and cadastre organisations. Although Vanessa Lawrence, in her opening speech, had to make reference to a new baby with Cambridge in his title, the conference managed to concentrate on matters more germane to our industry, including keynotes on the need for GI for security and policing (Janet Williams from Interpol) and the synergy with meteorology (Paul Davies, our chief meteorologist). Davies suggested one figure that we should remember in the context of climate change: air that is one degree warmer can hold 6% more moisture. Appropriately, after the hottest day of the year, we had the biggest thunderstorms in Cambridge that anyone can remember!

The Hotine Lecture (pronounced Ho-teen) this year was given by Nick Crane, author and television geographer, who regaled us with stories from Hotine’s work on the re-triangulation of Great Britain and some of the research that Nick has done for his biography of Gerardus Mercator. However, he did not mention Hotine’s other claim to fame: the creation of the Directorate of Colonial (later Overseas) Surveys after WWII. In fact, from 1947 to 1983, the Cambridge Conference was run by DOS until the latter was incorporated into the Ordnance Survey. As it happens your editor was the only ex-DOS surveyor present at the conference this year – a sign of the times.

There is no doubting Nick Crane’s enthusiasm for maps and for the Ordnance Survey, so perhaps we can forgive him for mispronouncing not only “Hotine” but also the director general’s Christian name. We won’t embarrass her by repeating it!

By Robin Waters, editor of GiS Professional.

This article was first published in GiS Professional August 2013.

Last updated: 22/03/2017