The dictionaries have a word for it

The dictionaries have a word for it

It's that much-anticipated time when dictionary publishers come out with their "words of the year". In recent times such words have become increasingly depressing. You may recall last year Collins Dictionary went for "permacrisis" which has turned out to be uncomfortably accurate in light of world events over the ensuing 12 months.

This year Collins has chosen "AI" an abbreviation of "artificial intelligence" which the dictionary describes as "the modelling of human mental functions by computer programmes". It all sounds a bit creepy, but you can't escape it -- every day AI is in the news.

In another link with AI the Cambridge Dictionary chose "hallucinate" as its word of the year. Although this is not a new word, according to Cambridge it is regularly being used in connection with AI. This is quite alarming. Apparently just like humans, AI is vulnerable to hallucinations and when it succumbs it ends up producing horrible fake news, causing all sorts of nasty things to happen. Hallucinating robots -- that's all we need.

As my wretched knowledge of artificial intelligence began and ended with a couple of episodes of Dr. Who and the Daleks back in the 1960s it is probably wise for me to now shut up.

The original doctor

Although I never really understood the programme, viewing Dr Who in those early days briefly took up a slot in my weekend entertainment. (My Saturday nights weren't exactly wild.)

The first actor to play Dr Who was William Hartnell who sported a splendid white wig which gave him the necessary eccentricity required for the role. Hartnell said he saw Dr Who as a cross between Father Christmas and the Wizard of Oz. The actor passed away in 1975 and no doubt would be astonished to learn the series is still going strong, with Scottish actor David Tennant being the latest incarnation in the title role.

Untimely launch

I remember watching the very first episode of Dr Who in November 1963 primarily because it was in very sad circumstances. It was the day after the assassination of US president John Kennedy in Dallas and our household was still in a state of shock.

Of course there had been saturation television coverage concerning the tragic events. So the launch of a rather flaky, if not totally absurd 25-minute science fiction show in the middle of all this horrible real-life drama was all but forgotten. As a result they had to show a repeat of the first Dr Who the following week before the second episode.

To think the JFK murder was 60 years ago. How time flies.

Pet peeves

You may have read this week's Bangkok Post report that Thailand has banned the import of green iguanas as they could damage the environment. Apparently iguanas have been growing in popularity as a pet in this country but many have escaped and have been spotted on the loose, particularly in Lop Buri.

Quite why anyone would want to have a pet iguana I have no no idea. Admittedly they have an advantage over dogs in that don't bark, although they apparently make a sort of wheezing sound when they are agitated.

You may recall that some years ago there was a brief fad in this country for pet piranhas. However, all it took was a couple of owners being bitten by the fish to put an end to that daft craze.

Then there was a Thai actress who had a pet python which slept in her bed. She claimed it was well behaved but her boyfriend was less than impressed and it soon came down to an "it's either me or the python" situation. The python won.

Bringing home the bacon

Last week's column concerning the adventures of two English pigs called Butch and Sundance reminded me of a brief craze in Thailand about seven years ago when it became fashionable to have tiny pigs as pets. Many of these cute-looking pigs were bought at Chatuchat market where vendors assured gullible customers the piggies would stay in their diminutive size forever.

Of course they didn't and within a year these cuddly little piglets had transformed into 150kg lumps of blubber. In some cases they kept on growing to about 350kg, not exactly the cute pet they had in mind for running about in their townhouse. The pet pigs quickly lost their novelty appeal and many were either abandoned or sold by their owners, eventually ending up on dinner plates.

Some might argue that anyone foolish enough to buy a pig as a pet fully deserves whatever ensues.

Blame it on Babe

One reason pigs became popular as pets around the world was the success of the 1995 film Babe, in which an orphaned pig becomes a talented farm "sheepdog". One US film reviewer called Babe "a pig so appealing he may have your family swearing off pork hot dogs". Indeed Babe also sparked a surge in vegetarianism.

Even British statesman Winston Churchill had a soft spot for pigs. He once observed: "I am fond of pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals."

Although he had pigs on his Chartwell estate Churchill did not want to see them come to any harm. He explained to friends he could never have an animal slaughtered after wishing it "good morning".

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Roger Crutchley

Bangkok Post columnist

A long time popular Bangkok Post columnist. In 1994 he won the Ayumongkol Literary Award. For many years he was Sports Editor at the Bangkok Post.

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