I spent three weeks of June and July at a summer school and conference on geometric representation theory at the University of Ottawa. This conference is already mentioned on the mathematical blogosphere (I refuse to talk about the “blathosphere” or the “blathyscape”), at the Secret Blogging Seminar.
While I could talk about things I learned in Ottawa, that would be contrary to my recent practice on Concrete Nonsense — namely, not posting about math!
So instead, I’ll discuss something else I learned about in Ottawa: a simple, elegant solution to the problem of bilingual signs. As you can see in the photo, the street signs in Ottawa take advantage of the fact that Francophones speak of “Rue [name]” while Anglophones speak of “[name] Street” by a neat concatenation: “Rue [name] Street.”
Let us generalize. Of course, signs other than street signs can be (and are) made in this way. But more importantly, we can generalize along the coordinate of language: One imagines a proper name in either English or Hebrew, followed by English text to the right and Hebrew text to the left. That is, while English-French signs glue “head-to-tail” linearly, English-Hebrew signs glue “tail-to-tail” linearly. Similarly, one could have right-angular signs with tail-to-tail English and (Ancient) Chinese.
Challenge: Come up with very, very clever examples and generalizatios along these lines.